RESTAURANTS

At coffee shop Fix! in the Chauncey building, the experience starts with the right mug

Assistant manager Zak Lee pulls a shot of espresso at Fix! Coffee in Iowa City on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Liz Martin/The
Assistant manager Zak Lee pulls a shot of espresso at Fix! Coffee in Iowa City on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Monica Moen loves really good coffee cups and tea pots.

So much so that she opened a coffee shop, Fix!, in part as an excuse to keep buying them.

She started with coffee cups she saw at a hotel, complete with a tray and spoon rests on the mug rim. They charmed her, and she said she couldn’t resist them.

“I bought the cups and thought I’d better find a use for them,” she said.

Then she found a tea pot that she loved, made by Toast Living, but it had been discontinued, so she tracked down five copies of it in Thailand and bought them for Fix!

Presentation is paramount to her.

“I think it brings some beauty to the process, some humor to the process,” she said. “I think it just makes the patron feel special ...”

“My perspective was that the essentials were the vessels to serve coffee in. I have a soft spot for clean design and things that kind of humor me a little bit,” she added.

Fix! opened Nov. 12 on the second floor of the Chauncey, a new development in downtown Iowa City. Monica Moen is a member of the Moen Group, which developed and owns the building. The Chauncey is 15 stories, with Fix! on the second floor. Other elements in the building include independent movie theater FilmScene, two floors of offices, 50 condos and three spaces still being finished: a bowling alley, a restaurant and a hotel. Moen said she expects those to be open in the first few months of 2020.

“Fix! was not an original part of the plan, but when I began to think of the occupants of the building, I thought that coffee would be something people would want, whether they were living here or working here,” Moen said. “The idea came to me maybe three or four years ago, when we had already begun construction. I basically took over a closet behind FilmScene, with seating in the common area for FilmScene and building occupants.”

A lawyer, she retired from Collins Aerospace in July, but she her “retirement” has included getting up by 5:30 a.m. every morning to open Fix!, as well as managing the Chauncey building as a whole. The name of the coffee shop came from coffee’s importance in many people’s morning routines, including her own.

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“First thing in the morning, I need that fix,” she said. “I have one latte in the morning, and that’s it for the day. It’s a taste I didn’t acquire until my 40s, but it’s become a habit.” She said the right coffee cup or tea pot is just the beginning of the experience.

“The vessel alone isn’t enough. You have to make sure you can serve a great cup of espresso,” she said.

She spent a week at a barista school in Seattle to prepare to open the shop and said she also relies on knowledgeable staff.

“I learned that coffee is a cult. You get sucked into it, it’s unbelievable. When I grew up, the only choices were one lump of sugar or two,” she said. Her parents were from Germany, and she remembers when she was growing up her mother would complain about American coffee.

“She was drinking iced coffee with milk, before that was the thing,” she said.

Zak Lee, Fix! assistant manager, said every detail matters when delivering a good cup of joe, from the way the beans are roasted to the coarseness of the grind to the way an espresso shot is pulled.

“It’s ritualistic, it’s scientific, with tangible results,” he said. “The temperature matters — if you brew with just a 10 degree shift, you can change the outcome of coffee. Coffee is just simply coffee and water. All the rest is how you change it.”

“The devil is in the details,” Moen noted.

Along with coffee and espresso drinks, Fix! serves tea, lemonade and hot chocolate, which comes topped with a ball of chocolate that Moen hand paints with edible gold leaf. The coffee shop doesn’t have a kitchen, but does serve pastries like croissants and tarts.

In the future, Moen hopes to add a mobile app so people parking in the adjacent garage can grab a coffee on their way to work. She may expand the hours after the bowling alley and restaurant open.

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The seating area for the coffee shop is bright, with expansive Southern exposure windows and white tables and chairs.

“I think the light is what appeals to a lot of people,” Moen said. “I wanted it to be a comfortable space where you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee in a nice vessel and relax.”

At the end of the day, she hopes people feel at home.

“It feels special when someone does something nice for you. We want you to enjoy it and feel you’ve been introduced to a friend’s home and are being taken good care of,” she said.

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

If you go

• What: Fix!

• Where: Second floor of the Chauncey, 404 E. College St., Iowa City

• Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

• Details: (319) 519-6445, chaunceyfix.com

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