Java Hustle

Lance and Patsy Larson.

Lance Larson, the owner and barista behind recently-opened Java Hustle on Thomas Road and 44th St., has been a coffee aficionado almost his entire life. 

“My husband Lance is the coffee guy,” Patsy Rethore-Larson said. “He’s been making coffee well over 20 years, and he’s been at the helm of the espresso machines at some of the Valley’s most hallowed coffee houses.”

When Larson moved to Phoenix from Nebraska in 1987 to attend ASU, one of his first jobs was at a coffee shop. There, he discovered his niche, and the “coffee guy” was born. During his time as a barista at Hava Java, he realized that he longed to operate his own coffee house.

“He’d hit a point where he wanted to be his own boss,” Rethore-Larson said. “So we researched how to do that. We soon realized that establishing a coffee house was proving to be more daunting than we’d initially thought.”

That’s when Larson got the idea to start a mobile coffee service. They had a custom trailer built with a window low enough for customers to drive up to get their coffee. The business started in May 2019. 

“Lance came up with the name Java Hustle because he wanted to be able to provide fast service,” Rethore-Larson said.

Then, in February 2020, Renae Tomasewski of Culinary Roots Catering contacted them. The Arcadia-based caterer planned to lease the kitchen space in The Marilyn building on Thomas Road to enable her to cater to private events. The previous restaurant had left behind plates, utensils and furniture, so it was easy to get started.

“The owner of The Marilyn knew Lance from his days at Hava Java,” Rethore-Larson said, “and she told Renae, ‘I know a coffee guy.’ The space is beautiful, flexible and creative, with an outdoor patio, so we jumped at the chance to partner with Renae.”

The original concept was that Culinary Roots provided the food – an assortment of grab-and-go breakfast and lunch items – and Larson provided the coffee. Customers could fuel their day with lattes, cappuccinos, mochas and traditional coffee and stay and dine on the property, or take their goodies to-go. Then came COVID-19.

“We opened on March 9, and we closed on March 18,” Rethore-Larson said. “When the order was lifted in mid-May, we studied the CDC recommendations. We reopened knowing we could do so responsibly and carefully.”

Currently, Java Hustle and Culinary Roots are open for breakfast and lunch during the week. Eventually, they want to offer weekend breakfast service and are also looking into creating smoothies. They’re focusing on staying positive about the future.

“Lance loves being behind the espresso machine making drinks and being creative,” Rethore-Larson said. “He prides himself on serving the best. He’s very particular as he knows the small details that are important to his customers, and he wants them to have their best drink experience ever.”

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