Cafe with a new blend —- Coffeehouse Fuel America opened its seventh location across from Boston University’s West Campus on Wednesday.
Before the cafe, Jeff Bonasia, co-owner of Fuel America, worked on advertising for Dunkin’ Donuts and coined the phrase “America Runs on Dunkin”. He then decided to try something different.
“I started imagining the concept of a new American coffee house that has a rational side and an emotional side,” said Bonasia.
Bonasia said the emotional side celebrates the “can-do spirit of America” while the rational side is all about food.
“The emotional side is really an unpretentious coffee house, one that appeals to the real broad base of America that celebrates the American melting pot of diversity and people from all walks of life,” said Bonasia. “The rational side of the brand is about creating menus and freshly brewed coffee.”
To create a coffee shop with “made to order” food, Bonasia partnered with Co-owner and Chef Carlos Magalhaes.
“What’s unique about the menu, aside from the fact that we roast our own coffee, is what I call a ‘lean into better-for-you food,'” Bonasia said. “I mean, we have smoothies, salads and all kinds of acai bowls and pitaya bowls.”
Bonasia said Fuel America roasts all its own coffee at its Worcester location led by Justin Enis, director of coffee operations. Enis selects the inputs for the coffee, creates roasting recipes that affect the coffee’s flavor and focuses on quality control to ensure the coffee is consistent.
“Basically everyone in the company touches coffee, somehow I was along that line,” says Enis.
Like Bonasia, Enis emphasized the “high quality” yet inclusive nature of the Fuel America coffee house. He describes Fuel America as a third-wave coffee house, a movement that emphasizes high-quality coffee.
“The company not only fulfills my desire for high-quality coffee, but also the mass market, which is the exciting part,” says Enis. “[Third wave] coffee house can often be inaccessible to people. They are usually in gentrified neighborhoods, or they are not everywhere.
Avi Bass, a graduate student in the College of Engineering, attended the opening of Fuel America, and said he liked the accessibility of the coffee house.
“I like the fact that there’s a coffee shop here a lot, because it’s right across from the gym so it’s a good place to sit afterwards,” Bass said.
Ty Zhang, a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he found the store convenient because he lives nearby.
“I just passed by one day and then I went in,” Zhang said. “It turned out it was a week before they actually opened, and the owner was there and we just chatted a little bit and he gave me a really nice free sample, so I decided to come back when they opened.”
For Bonasia, Zhang and Bass are exactly the type of customers Fuel America is trying to get.
“Sometimes it can be intimidating for people who don’t know much about coffee,” Bonasia said. “We try to take everyone and welcome you and try to help you learn more about coffee if you like.”
Enis said Fuel America plans to expand greatly.
“The growth strategy is quite ambitious,” said Enis. “We’re trying to get up to 5,000 stores nationwide. Right now, we have seven.”
But Bonsaia says that goal has less to do with size, and more to do with quality.
“We want to grow,” said Bonasia. “I want to be a big brand, but it’s not about being really big. It’s about developing a good franchise and so far it’s happened organically.