It’s 9 a.m. on a Monday, and if some talented young employees seem to be running late to the office, they might just be enjoying "free coffee Monday” in the Plaza District.
And if it’s a certain Friday night, they might be leaving work just a few minutes early to get a head start on the monthly "Live on the Plaza” — a retail promotion by the Plaza District that won top honors at the recent Oklahoma Main Street Awards. Kristen Valis, director of the Plaza District Association, acknowledges there’s no coincidence to the group’s strategy to bring life back to the once blighted area. Surrounded by two dozen young professionals, she visited with The Oklahoman at the weekly "free coffee Monday” hosted by Cafe Evoke Catering at 1708 NW 16. "We’ve tried to take advantage of the young people who were already here, the social media and energy we have going,” she said. "We wanted to capitalize on what was already here when I first started.” Jason and Jenni Duncan, owners of Cafe Evoke Catering, began hosting "free coffee Mondays” last summer, not long after striking up a business relationship with a relatively new roaster in town — Elemental Coffee Roasters. "We wanted to have an event, no strings attached, and just have a time when people could get together, find out what’s going on, and get to know each other,” Jason Duncan said. "And it has taken off ever since. .... We started out knowing we would spend some money doing this, but to promote the community, we felt it would be worthwhile.” Valis said much of the success of "free coffee Mondays” was spontaneous — similar to the monthly "Live on the Plaza” (the next one is scheduled for Friday). "It’s really an awesome event,” she said.