When Tom Plets traveled to Italy to study art history two years ago, he found his learning swirled more around the scene at local cafés rather than Monet’s impressions.
For hours, he would watch an ever-changing landscape of people coming and going off the street, seated comfortably in a corner of a café with a cup of coffee. And not just any coffee, the best brews he had ever had.
It convinced Plets to put his plans of becoming an art restorer on the back burner and open a café upon returning to the states.
“It was such an experience,” he said. “From that moment I knew I wanted to open a coffee shop.”
After graduating from Northern Arizona University, Plets (a PHS alum) returned to Payson and set to work opening a café in January.
Last week, Dimi Espresso opened in the Swiss Village Shops in the former space of Fireside Café.
Plets, 24, said he designed Dimi Espresso with his favorite Italian café in mind. He carefully selected comfortable furniture and added touches of Europe throughout with quaint knickknacks acquired on his travels. He had artist Barbara Biesemeyer paint murals of Italian scenery and tested dozens of coffees before settling on one distributor out of the Valley.
The result is a space with room to linger for hours or meet up for a quick business meeting or a game of pool.
Plets said he could not have done it all without the help of family and friends, most of whom also work at the cafe.
Rachael Smith, the café’s head barista, said the four months before opening were hard work. A broken pipe had flooded the space during the winter months, requiring new floors, paint and a thorough airing out.
There were a few highlights though, including salvaging rosewood countertops from the days of Fireside from the trash and reusing them as the bar top.
Landing chef Jose Louis Rodriquez was also a coup. Rodriquez has worked at several local eateries and is creating fresh, homemade baked goods daily, Plets said. He is also behind the café’s light fare food options, including Panini, quiches and soups.
Smith said Dimi is a cross between a café and a bistro.
The response from the community has so far been incredibly enthusiastic, Plets said.
Eventually, he plans to add a new stage for music and more food options.
Dimi Espresso is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday thru Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call (928) 951-1198 or visit www.dimiespresso.com.