Business & Tech, Features

New Fuel America coffee shop provides accessible, quality coffee on BU campus

A cafe with a new blend — Fuel America coffee house opened its seventh location across from Boston University’s West Campus on Wednesday.

Fuel America coffee house at 1020 Commonwealth Ave. The new coffee shop at Boston University’s West Campus opened on Nov. 2. RUOHAN LI/DFP STAFF

Before the cafe, Jeff Bonasia, co-owner of Fuel America, worked in advertising for Dunkin’ Donuts and created the phrase “America Runs on Dunkin.” He then decided he wanted to try something different.

“I started to imagine a new American coffee house concept that has a rational side and an emotional side,” Bonasia said.

Bonasia said the emotional side celebrates the “can-do spirit of Americans” while the rational side is all about the food.

“The emotional side is really an unpretentious coffee house, one that appeals to a real wide base of Americans who are celebrating the American melting pot of diversity and people from all walks of life,” Bonasia said. “The rational side of the brand is really about creating a menu and coffee that is made fresh.”

To create a coffee shop with “made when you order” food, Bonasia partnered with Co-Owner and Chef Carlos Magalhaes.

“What’s unique about the menu, in addition to us roasting our own coffee, is what I refer to as ‘lean into better-for-you foods,’” Bonasia said. “By that I mean, we have smoothies, salads and all sorts of acai bowls and pitaya bowls.”

Bonasia said Fuel America roasts all of its own coffee at its Worcester location led by Justin Enis, director of coffee operations. Enis chooses the inputs for the coffees, creates the roast recipe which affects coffee flavor and focuses on quality control to make sure the coffee is consistent.

“Basically everything in the company that touches coffee, somehow I’m somewhere along that line,” Enis said.

Like Bonasia, Enis emphasized the “high-quality” yet inclusive nature of Fuel America coffee house. He described Fuel America as a third-wave coffee house, a movement which emphasizes high quality coffee.

“The company not only is fulfilling my desire for high-quality coffees, but also mass-market, which is a really interesting cross-section,” Enis said. “[Third wave] coffee houses can often be inaccessible to people. They’re usually in very gentrified neighborhoods, or they’re just not everywhere.”

Avi Bass, a graduate student in the College of Engineering, attended the opening of Fuel America, and said liked the accessibility of the coffee house.

“I’m liking 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 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he found the shop convenient because he lives close by.

“I was just walking past one day and then I walked in,” Zhang said. “Turns out it was a week before they actually opened, and the owner was there and we just talked for a bit and he gave me a free sample which was really nice, so I decided to come back when they opened.”

For Bonasia, Zhang and Bass are the type of customers that Fuel America tries to target.

“Sometimes it can be intimidating to people who don’t know a lot about coffee,” Bonasia said. “We try to take all that away and welcome you and try to help you learn more about coffee if you’re interested.”

Enis said Fuel America plans to expand greatly.

“The growth strategy is pretty ambitious,” Enis said. “We’re trying to get up to 5,000 stores nationally. Right now, we have seven.”

But Bonsaia said the goal has less to do with size, and more to do with quality.

“We want to grow,” Bonasia said. “I’d love to become a large brand, but it’s not really about being really large. It’s about growing a great franchises and so far it’s started to happen organically.”


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