Photo by Annika Tomlin

By Annika Tomlin | July 12, 2021

Mara Friedman and her husband, Kacey “KC” Bonnem, took their “perpetual idea projects” and turned them into PIP Coffee + Clay.

“I was doing ceramics in my laundry room, and it got to the point where I wanted to not be in my laundry room. I started looking for space like a studio that might be part of a larger studio,” says Friedman, a Phoenix resident. “I couldn’t find it anywhere remotely where I lived.”

The duo looked for a building they could convert into a studio. They struggled, however, to find a company to rent space to them.

“We ended up with this building, and were like, ‘That’s a really big ceramics studio,’” Friedman adds.

Just inside the building at 2617 N. 24th Street, Phoenix, is a coffee shop and seating area with local arts, ceramics and other items on display for sale. Through the back hallway, the space opens to the ceramic and open studio.

Unrealistic?

The couple previously worked as self-employed graphic designers who helped people market their products on Amazon. They opened PIP in April.

“We recently opened, and so most of the work was done during the pandemic,” says Bonnem.

“I wouldn’t say it affected what we were doing that much. Construction workers were still working, and the city was open. We are on the tail end, and things are starting to open up and there are more people out and about.”

Friedman admits they thought they were unrealistic about the process from buildout to grand opening.

“We’re like, ‘We’ll be open in six months, no problem,’” says Friedman. “Then every person we would talk to would be like, ‘Are you serious?’

“We’ve all been locked in our houses for a year and a half or whatever. In some ways, it’s like the silver lining of starting your business in a pandemic. As long as you don’t open in the dead center of the pandemic, opening at the tail end has people psyched.”

Plethora of offerings

The company offers an array of ceramic-based activities, including open studio, beginner and intermediate classes, as well as a kids class.

“We have open studio, which is like independent study,” Friedman says. “People already know what they are doing. They don’t have to be experts.

“You can do that for hand-building or throwing, and that’s almost every day.”

The studio recently added intermediate classes to the popular beginners classes.

“When you come to class and you are a beginner — 85% of the people who come here are beginners — you can expect to learn the very basics of throwing,” Friedman says.

“It’s like, ‘How do you center clay on the wheel?’ ‘How do you poke a hole in it and pull it up?’ ‘How do you get it off?’”

Friedman says everyone in the class ends the session with “a thing.”

“We always say, ‘You’ve made a thing, and that thing will hold water,’” Friedman says. “Call it whatever you want. They can expect to make some things.”

Kids Friday night hand-building classes are for those in kindergarten to age 13. Regular beginner class are for ages 14 and older.

The coffee shop side of the building sells a variety of drinks and locally made pastries and treats.

Friedman says it was hard to decide which local coffee brewers to pair with.

“We don’t know anything about anything, but we drink coffee,” Friedman says.

“We use Novela (Coffee Roasters) for our lighter roast, we use Espressions (Coffee Roastery) for our darker roast, and we get out cold brew from Blue House (Coffee).”

Initially, PIP only had the dark roast from Espressions, until the lead barista said “the younger generation doesn’t like that dark stuff.”

On Fridays and Saturdays, PIP has “natural wine and local beer,” according to Friedman.

While pastries are the main food source, PIP would not be complete without its pizza subs.

“In college, there was a food truck parked by the freshman dorms. Johnny’s Hot Truck — it’s like a legend,” Friedman says.

“They only served pizza subs. You’d get home late and maybe you’d be a tiny bit intoxicated, and you would go and there is nothing better. I was like, ‘Well, we are going to have wine and beer. (We should have pizza subs).’”

Behind the name

As graphic designers for 24 years, the couple yearned to sell their ideas on Amazon, instead of focusing on others.

“After much back and forth, we were like, ‘We should sell aprons because I was already doing ceramics and I couldn’t find an apron that I liked,’” Friedman says. “I wanted it to be functional and cute, and there’s no sizes and somewhat unisex, blah, blah, blah.”

They made 1,000 aprons to be sold on Amazon.

“We had to come up with an LLC, so I was like, ‘We should call that LLC the Perpetual Idea Project,’ just making fun of ourselves — and our various project ideas,” Friedman says.

The aprons came with the logo in small print. Next it was time to upload them on Amazon.

“We had all these aprons made and we went to go sell them on Amazon, and we had been blacklisted,” Friedman explains.

“Because in 20 years of working for Amazon, we’ve had so many fake accounts because we take pictures (of other people’s products), try out the processes (of what graphic designs help sales) and write about it. (The people from Amazon) were like, ‘You guys are bad news.’”

When it came time to create the LLC for their current business, Friedman says they resorted to Perpetual Idea Project.

“We came to start this (business) six months later, and I was like, ‘We are not doing another LLC,’” Friedman says. “We are doing something and we are using this LLC, and then (Kacey) was like, ‘It’s a really long name for a coffee shop.’ I was like, ‘PIP — it’s an acronym.’”

The aprons are on sale in the shop, along with other locally made items.

“We have all kinds of stuff from local people — the ceramics are mine,” Friedman says.

“We have some stuff that is not local, and then we are just sort of getting more and more sort of crafts people and artists (to sell here).”

PIP Coffee + Clay

2617 N. 24th Street, Phoenix

480-616-0004, pipcoffeeclay.com

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