Longtime Fourth Avenue cafe Sabine's Cafe Passé will be under new ownership and management beginning in September. Passé owner, operator, and head baker Sabine Blaese, who opened the cafe in 2006, and after much consideration, decided it was time to breathe new life into the cafe without her involvement.
The new owners and management team include Jenny Rice, Ronnie and Christian Spece, and Mike and Dana Corcoran.
A seamless transition and no major changes, at least any time soon, were major factors for both Blaese and the new owners.
"For me," said Blaese, "this is the best possible outcome. I was horrified at the possibility of selling to the wrong people. When they told me they wanted to keep Passé as Passé, I was humbled by it."
Blaese cited significant personal life changes and 10 years at Passé's helm as contributing factors to her readiness to sell.
"I got a ton out of it," she said. "It was a really hard decision. I recently came back from a trip to Germany where they're very pragmatic and you just don't leave a job without something better lined up."
While Blaese is stepping away from an ownership role, opportunities have already arisen, including helping a friend open a restaurant in Texas.
Blaese opened the comfy, bohemian Cafe Passé in 2006 after pursuing acting and waiting tables in New York City for 10 years. Named after a cafe of the same name in her hometown in Germany (the original cafe burned down in 2004), the original Passé was also Blaese's first job when she was 16.
"I don't know what it was," she said, "but it just had 'it.' Everybody went there. That's what I wanted to create with Cafe Passé. A place where everybody knows each other. You can be there all day and it doesn't get old."
That 'it,' or vibe that Blaese created is also the reason the new owners were interested in not only taking over the establishment, but in keeping that same vibe and energy.
"We all have history here at Cafe Passé," said Ronnie Spece. "I used to drink the Crazy Monkey smoothie when I felt like I was getting sick many years ago and worked around the corner."
While no major changes are in store, the new owners do plan on making some minor changes, including extended hours, bringing back live music, and expanding both the food and bar menu.
For new owner and partner Jenny Rice, any future changes need to be consciously considered and feel right for the space that Sabine created.
"Its important that we sit in the space as owners - rather than as patrons - and get a sense for what we'd like to add or subtract," said Rice.
All staff that wishes to stay will remain. Menu favorites will remain too.
Spece, who is also a partner in whiskey and doughnut concept Batch emphasized that while Batch was worlds away from what the space was before it was Batch - a wine bar named Unplugged - and required a total change of pace in concept and energy, this transition will not be even remotely similar.
"This is a lot different than Batch. We're carrying on that passion and history - that feeling of Cafe Passé," said Spece. "At the same time, we're not trying to be Sabine. She's handing the torch over to us to run with."
"Tucson is so forgiving," said Blaese. "We've gone through so many changes and everyone is always so accepting."
Look for the switchover around the beginning of September. Although, you won't notice much.