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Friday, June 14, 2024

Coffee + Flowers = A Stemistry Experiment

Flower stems and coffee chemistry bond together at the one and only Stemistry. 

By Jordan Gerard

Stemistry is Dylan Capshaw’s passion. Originally started as a home-based online flower business in 2021, Capshaw quickly transformed his operation to run out of a brick and mortar location at 9015 E. Vía Linda St. in Scottsdale in 2022. Here, Capshaw found his stride filling online orders while also offering an in-house do-it-yourself flower bar, flower-infused coffee drinks paired with a delectable breakfast and lunch menu, and unique goods from other local artisans and businesses. Capshaw recently opened a second location on March 26 at 618 E. Adams St. in Phoenix. He also runs two nonprofits on the side, and he’s training to be a helicopter pilot. 

By the way, he’s 16 years old.

“I’ve always really enjoyed those little entrepreneurial endeavors,” he said. 

His first entrepreneurial venture was ordering little Squishies toys in bulk and selling them when he was a fifth grader. 

In addition to Stemistry’s local coffee, the shop sells local goods from Arizona businesses.

“My mom, she owns her own business, so I probably got some drive from that, and my dad has always been coming up with pretty unique ideas for companies, so I think the two of those combined maybe give me some drive and push me there,” he notes.

With the help of YouTube, his parents, and a business consultant, Capshaw’s been busy. When he started Stemistry as a pre-made flower arrangement business during the pandemic two years ago, he would come home and fill up to 100 orders a day. Since the flowers arrived fresh daily, he sent them out as fast as he could. He saved every penny that he earned, and his first purchase was a pair of nice shoes, those being Nike Air Force 1s. Then he saved the rest of his money and opened the physical store in Scottsdale just a year ago in March. He enlisted the help of a business consultant who had previously helped his mom’s business. 

“When I was first interviewing employees, I had never encountered a job interview myself, so I was completely lost on what to do,” he said. 

He now has eight employees in the store, and three who work on a contract basis. 

Once he signed the lease, he got to work. With his school just down the road, after-school sessions to build furniture with his friends were a common occurrence, and Capshaw always had coffee ready to go. Today, students enjoy the space as they work on homework or just hang out.

“There will be a whole big group of kids doing homework in here sometimes after school, which is pretty cool to create that hangout spot,” Capshaw said. “They’ve been extremely supportive.”

He added the school district is supportive as well, especially if he has to leave for a staffing emergency, news interview, or “something big.” He’s lucky to have that support, he added.

The brick-and-mortar location in Scottsdale is a peaceful reprieve in a bustling area. It’s a calm coffee shop atmosphere with plenty of space for shopping local goods, hanging out, or making your own flower arrangements at the bouquet bar. Stemistry’s florists are available to guide and advise how bouquets come together. They also add “flower food” to the bouquets to help them last longer. 

A large rack of flowers greet customers as soon as they walk in the door.

Stemistry sources its flowers through three Arizona floral distributors, who get their flowers directly from farms. The goal is to get the freshest flowers possible so bouquets last longer for customers, whereas grocery store flowers take a longer journey from farm to store and don’t last as long, Capshaw said.

Coffee drinks include a unique selection of teas and coffee shop favorites, but beyond the more commonly recognized drinks are unique lattes with flower-infused flavor profiles. The rose latte, lavender latte, and flower garden latte are just some of the many different varieties – the prickly pear latte is particularly unique.

“I wanted drinks that were unique to us, [that] you couldn’t really find elsewhere,” he said. “Since we have the flowers already, I thought it would be pretty unique to mix flowers in with our coffee and meld the world between the two.”

At Stemistry, presentation is important, too. Each drink is topped with dried flower petals and if ordered to sip and stay a while, is served with a flower presentation, as well. For a truly unique twist on your morning coffee, try the 24K Gold Latte topped with real gold leaf.

“I think the biggest thing about Stemistry is being unique, so I just tried to come up with some pretty cool one-of-a-kind drinks,” he said.

It’s also Capshaw’s way of being eco-conscious in every sense of the word. Flower shops generate a lot of waste from the trimming of stems and branches, but Stemistry florists work to use the majority of its flowers in some capacity. Even flowers that are going bad or lower quality ones that are not sold to customers have a purpose and are added to the mini arrangements that accompany in-house drinks.

The shop also reuses vases that are donated to them, especially since vases can stack up. They’ve rarely had to purchase new ones, Capshaw said. Stemistry has also committed to using only paper straws with its drinks.

“I mean, obviously we only have one planet, so it’s super important to protect,” he said. 

As far back as he can remember, Capshaw has always had a love of animals and volunteering his time to eco-friendly causes. One of the first ways he can recall giving back was volunteering for Scottsdale’s Adopt a Road program when he was about eight or nine years old. 

“Every weekend it was my favorite thing to go get my vest and my trash bag and my little trash-picker-upper, and I walked the road and picked up all the trash on it,” he recalled. It’s still there today, under Dylan C.’s Clean Road. 

In 2017, he remembers hearing about Hurricane Harvey, the category four hurricane that struck Texas and Louisiana. YouTube videos showed dogs and other pets caught in the flooding. An unbearable thought, 11-year-old Capshaw created a website (he learned from YouTube) and dubbed it the Dylan Capshaw Wildlife Foundation, setting a goal to raise $1,000 to help shelter pets. His mom shared it on her Facebook page, and he posted it on the neighborhood app Nextdoor. Capshaw raised over $2,000 as a result. 

Nate Martinez and Sarah Cottingham help build a bouquet for a customer.

To help their son see the impact of his hard work, his parents booked a flight to Texas. Capshaw chose to donate the funds to the Rescue Pets Movement shelter in Houston, which was helping to relocate dogs that were abandoned during the hurricane. The nonprofit provides homeless pets medical care and rehabilitation, then partners with reputable animal welfare organizations across the U.S. to find the animals a forever home. Capshaw funded an expedition where he was able to save 10 dogs from a flooded grocery store – with all 10 being placed in new homes that same year. 

“That sent me on like, such a drive,” he said. “I was so happy getting to do that, that I kept growing the wildlife foundation until I eventually started rescuing animals on my own.”

Currently, there are about 60 animals in Capshaw’s care. He is licensed in the state to care for and rehabilitate marsupials. There’s a kangaroo that lives with him and accompanies him to schools to teach kids. The wildlife foundation is a 501(c)(3) and accepts donations to help feed and care for the animals. 

More recently, Capshaw started another nonprofit during the pandemic when he decided to use a 3-D printer given to him as a middle school birthday present for the benefit of frontline workers. Home from school in April 2020, he read about the mask shortage and how frontline workers often reused the same masks every day. Unsatisfied with that solution, he found a template online that could turn one surgical mask into seven masks by cutting them and using it as a filter and printing a plastic piece. On that day, For the Frontline was born. Capshaw was able to supply masks and face shields to frontline workers around the country, free of charge, thanks to donations. Eventually, three industrial 3-D printers were donated to him in order to print masks 24/7, and he printed over 1,000 masks. His room looked like a laboratory for a while, he said. His nonprofit shipped over 3,000 care packages that included masks, shields, gloves, and rubbing alcohol. He also supplied masks to the New York City Police Department. 

Additionally, he donated face shields and different kinds of masks and also held donation drives for latex gloves. As the shortage caught up with the world, the nonprofit switched to utilizing the 3-D printers for any PPE equipment that is in short supply and ships it to wherever it’s needed. 

This effort, combined with his wildlife foundation, earned him nominations for TIME’s Kid of the Year and Nickelodeon’s Kid of the Year awards in 2020. 

Today, Capshaw’s determination is focused on the Downtown Phoenix location of Stemistry. Located in historic Heritage Square, the former two-level barn is circa 1899, and the shop has been retrofitted to keep the building’s historical integrity intact. Capshaw notes that it will mostly be an extension of the Scottsdale location, with the same themes and drinks, but will offer its customers the benefit of outdoor seating. The menu will also include special drink items honoring the location’s five original property owners, Katherine Baird, Edward Hasten, Leon Bouvier, Eliza Teeter, and Flora Rosson. 

“The flavor profiles of those drinks were made to match kind of how those personalities were for those people, whether they were bold or soft,” he said. “So people come in and they say, ‘Oh, what’s the Katherine Baird?’ And then we get to explain a little bit about the history.” 

In addition to all of this, Capshaw balances high school, friends, and future plans. Currently, he works at the Scottsdale location before and after school, where he also manages his homework between various tasks, toggling back and forth on his computer between school work and management of the Stemistry online enterprise. Capshaw  notes that he’s usually up early at 4 a.m. and goes to bed early. 

“I think learning is probably the biggest thing. I’m always learning,” he said. “Every single morning I come in here, and my employees teach me so much. I view them more as coworkers because they’ve all worked for other coffee shops, and they all have their own ideas, and I’m always inspired by them.”

Stemistry has turned out to be a community-oriented space with new and regular customers.

“I like having that, that aspect of this where I see the same faces, I get to meet new people, and I get to support other businesses around us the best we can, so I like having that space where everyone feels welcomed,” he said.

Visit the Stemistry website at https://www.stemistry.com/ and check out the company’s  Instagram at @stemistryaz. 


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