When John and Pat Curry first moved to Augusta in 2009, they spied a cozy spot they thought would make a cute coffee shop.
On June 13, the couple will mark the 10th anniversary of Buona Caffe Artisan Roasted Coffee‘s first coffee shop — exactly where they imagined it — with an art exhibition and reception.
Little did they know a decade ago the challenges that lay in store for them as they brought the coffee shop idea to life.
John Curry’s job at The Augusta Chronicle as the visuals’ editor brought them to Augusta in 2009, where they moved into a house right behind that potential coffee shop. After some downsizing at the paper left him jobless, the couple began rethinking that dream of coffee.
He started roasting coffee in their home, and people liked it. That grew into a coffee roasting business. Their first space was across the street on Central Avenue in the back of a dental lab, selling bags of roasted coffee. The whole time they kept their eye on that cute little coffee shop location. The building was rented but was only being used for storage. And its owner wasn’t interested in leasing it to them.
“At the time, nobody told us that was one of those locations that a bunch of stuff had been in and never worked,” said Pat Curry. “I’m glad nobody ever told us that.”
Finally, after the intervention of a friend, the opportunity to rent the space arose.
In November 2012, they signed a lease on the location and began preparing the building for their dream.
In February 2013, however, their COBRA health insurance was about to run out. They took the opportunity to do the routine health checks, and John Curry’s colonoscopy showed cancer. At first, they thought it was Stage 2.
The diagnosis didn’t deter either of them. Surgery was scheduled giving them a deadline to open the coffee shop. With their newspaper backgrounds, the Currys were familiar with deadline pressure, so they pushed into high gear to get the building ready.
He underwent chemotherapy and radiation prior to surgery all while working on a build out for the coffee shop. The treatments caused fatigue.
“Someone lent us an Army cot, and we put it in the roasting room,” said John Curry. “I never stopped working.”
The couple’s daughter, Elisabeth, who was living in Virginia at the time, also joined in with them to help in the build-out phase and has been an integral part throughout. She’s currently the general manager.
Four days after opening, John Curry went into the hospital for major surgery, where doctors determined the cancer was not Stage 2, but Stage 3 instead. He went through aggressive chemotherapy after surgery, which took a greater toll than the first round had.
“We felt like we were hanging on by our fingernails,” Pat Curry said.
That Christmas, Pat Curry recalls opting for Chinese food instead of a big celebration. The couple has a holiday open house each year with lots of guests.
John Curry came through the cancer, and the couple and their business continued to flourish.
They even breezed through a bump in the road when Richmond County residents were told to boil water. That affected most restaurants. Fortunately, John Curry had made an emergency plan prior to the incident, and the coffee shop wasn’t shut down.
By 2019, the business was expanding and running on all cylinders.
The couple opened a roastery on Reynolds Street and celebrated with a latte art contest. The Currys said they had wanted to incorporate that into the anniversary festivities, but the Central Avenue location isn’t big enough.
They also opened a location at the Georgia Cyber Center downtown.
They were offering classes at the Reynolds Street location and helping other coffee businesses get up and running; the Central Avenue operations had expanded offerings on its menu including pastries, breakfast and lunch options.
They were preparing for a 10th anniversary celebration for their brand, but that was in 2020. The pandemic nixed those dreams and caused another storm for them to weather. It brought numerous restrictions and curbside pickup. But there was magic in coffee subscription boxes and customers still ordered bags of coffee.
In the 10 years since they opened, they’ve watched the building directly across from them house four different businesses and another that didn’t even open, and they’ve watched the influx of national coffee brands build shops in the area.
And Buona Caffe marches on.
Pat Curry said a friend who owns a restaurant gave them a great piece of advice. He encouraged them not to look at what competitors were doing, just to focus on what their own business was doing.
“Stay focused on what you’re doing. You cannot worry about them,” she said was his advice. “We’ve abided by that ever since. All you can do is stay focused on what you’re doing.”
And they do. Buona Caffe Is not just coffee. The shop recently hired a full-time baker. They offer food options and non-coffee drinks such as their new Augusta Sunrise. They also offer their own specialty made sodas.
A few events marked the “happily caffeinated” anniversary such as a coffee-themed art show and a painting class.
Curated by Erica Pastecki, the art exhibition and reception will be from 6 to 9 p.m., and The BrownsTown Gritty will perform from 6 to 7 p.m. The following Saturday June 17 will be Coffee and Canvases with Pastecki instructing from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Registration is required for the class which will feature a whimsical coffee cup ala Dr. Seuss.
Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at email@example.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.
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