Building Redesigns, Plus Bruschetta, Pizza, Ice Cream, Tacos, and Wines
By Monica Sifert.
Postino WineCafe isn’t just about food and drink. It’s about atmosphere and connection. It’s about hanging out with awesome, genuine people. It’s about community and, yes, it’s about the most incredible wine and bruschetta. And it’s also more sustainable than you might think.
Postino is part of the eclectic restaurant group Upward Projects. Lauren Bailey, CEO and co-founder of Upward Projects and owner of Postino, had a vision of making her restaurants sustainable, starting with the physical space and location. She partnered with Craig Demarco to create Upward Projects and together they refined the vision, and then broke it down into core values for their team to put into practice through their work and relationships with customers. “Our mission is to make people feel good, plain and simple,” she explains. Lauren focuses on the conceptualization, design and operations of Upward Projects, which was recently added to Inc.’s 5,000 fastest growing companies. From the neighborhood to the building to the people who greet customers, the experience at every one of the group’s restaurants is designed to be authentic.
Finding the Right Location
Upward Projects adapts and reuses historic buildings that are an integral part of local neighborhoods. When planning for a new restaurant, real estate is Lauren’s first and primary focus – location and space is what makes Postino unique. The first Postino opened in Arcadia in 2004 in an old 1940’s brick post office. Fittingly, the name “Postino” is the Italian word for post office. The old building was not being used anymore, so Lauren and her team gave it a second life. “We start sustainability with our buildings. We rarely build something from the ground up, but usually restore something that is ready for its next life,” says Lauren, who does most of the design work. Finding the right location is an important step for both Lauren and the community because she takes space that would otherwise sit empty and turns it into a place where hospitality can thrive.
At all of Upward Projects’ restaurants – Postino, Joyride, Federal Pizza, Churn, and Windsor – everything is centered around community. From local farmers to customers and employees, Lauren always looks to foster, nurture. and improve relationships – and be a positive force. Ingredients are sourced from local farmers, the locations that are allowed to compost, do, and Lauren always opts for fiscally smart choices that will benefit the community. “We support as many local purveyors as possible, who bring us sustainable goods whenever possible, and keep as much money as we can in the communities we serve,” she says. Her vision with every restaurant is always to provide a good environment so people can “create moments.” One of her goals is to reach the millennial generation in a new way, increasing their awareness of sustainable issues through her vision and contribution to the community, and through their menus.
To promote sustainability, Lauren and her team are walking the walk, making some of the classic industry tools more sustainable. She’s already made it part of Postino’s core values to eliminate plastic straws, and that’s just the beginning. “One of our big priorities this year is to reduce our plastic and to-go ware impact. We started with the straws and there is much, much more to do here,” she says.
Lauren never thought she would get this far in the restaurant industry. Starting her own restaurant was something she never dreamed she would do, especially one that would make such a significant community impact and support so many aspects of sustainability. “I started my restaurant career waiting tables at PF Chang’s in 1999. I never thought in a million years I would be here today…I always want to contribute more, experience more, learn more, see everything, meet more people, and on and on. I don’t believe I’ll ever complete [my] ‘vision’ because it’s always a work in progress and so many people contribute to making it what it is today,” she says.
Lauren is also a member of the steering committee for Devour Phoenix, a non-profit coalition of independent restaurants that share ideas, increasing Arizona’s visibility as a culinary destination. The coalition stresses the importance of sustainability and hosting culinary events, and their eco-conscious approach has inspired many restaurants to donate all glass wine bottles to Refresh Glass, a company that repurposes them into wine glasses and other home decor.
Postino now has locations in Arcadia, central Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, and Scottsdale, as well as Denver and Houston. You can also visit Upward Projects’ Windsor, a pub-style neighborhood hangout, Churn, the connected ice cream shop, Federal Pizza, and two Joyride Taco Houses. While Postino is especially popular with the millennial generation, everyone can enjoy a renowned Postino bruschetta board, the 5 til 5 deal and happy hour menu, and, of course, the laid-back and welcoming atmosphere where you can create some moments of your own.
Monica Sifert, an Arizona native, is a recent graduate from Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario, Canada. She recently joined Green Living as an intern and is currently taking graphic design classes online.
Photos by Becca Wright.