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Bica Looks to Kent State to 'Jolt' New Business

Scott Rafuse, owner of Bica and Brewster's Cafe, hopes to use coffee experience to serve Twinsburg and Kent State University.

After spending 25 years in the coffee industry, Scott Rafuse is bringing his knowledge to  Twinsburg.

Rafuse, the owner of and Brewster's Cafe, has started Bica, a new coffee and sandwich shop on Creekside Drive.

Rafuse owned multiple Arabica coffee franchises for nearly 25 years around Northeast Ohio and has owned Brewster's for the past seven years.

He left the coffee industry years ago because the market was stocked with coffee shops.

"The pie doesn't get any bigger, the pieces get smaller and smaller," Rafuse said of the coffee market in Northeast Ohio.

But another new venture re-peaked his interest in slinging joe.

"Why did I want to get back in the business when it was saturated? Kent State," Rafuse said. "Why wouldn't I?"

Rafuse saw a huge opportunity to capitalize on the new Kent State University Regional Academic Center.

With around 1,200 students in the new campus and possible plans for more enrollment, it was a huge draw to create a coffee shop.

"Kent State was very instrumental in me doing this," he said. "It was a no-brainer."

He's going after the "well-rounded" student population hoping to get students of all types in for coffee and a pastry before class, and maybe a beer and a sandwich at Brewster's at the end of the day.

Bica opened last week and celebrated it's grand opening Monday by offering free coffee.

Owning two restaurants side-by-side may take potential business from each other, but for Rafuse thinks it's a sound investment.

"Will this interfere with next door's [Brewster's] food sales? Probably, a little bit. But will I gain in the long run? Absolutely," Rafuse said. 

It will be especially helpful that he can use access to both inventories and facilities to benefit both businesses. He will still operate them separately.

With a great idea in place, Rafuse needed a memorabe name.

He got the name "Bica" from the nickname his Arabica franchises were given.

"Everyone called all my stores 'Bica,'" Rafuse said. "Everyone would always say, 'We're going to Bica.'"

While there isn't a lot of competition in Twinsburg, Bica's strongest coffee competitor is undoubtedly Starbucks.

"They're brand recognition is uncanny," Rafuse said. "They're geniuses in marketing. They have a brand loyalty that is unbelievable."

He believes his location is  more desirable, however, with less traffic on Creekside Drive than at the corner of State Routes 91 and 82. 

Even with Panera planning to open soon, he thinks his facility and location is ideal for customers; right next to campus and across from a busy hotel.

"You can see us from the freeway and I don't need to put monumental signs up," he said. "It really makes great sense."

Rafuse also hopes to use the terrific name recognition Brewster's has in the community to gain business for his newest venture.

"I think we have a golden opportunity with a pretty high customer base now to promote Bica without having to go outside of our walls," he said.

Rafuse doesn't think Bica is a "risky investment" but he will look at how business is doing after a few months to plan for the future.

"If I don't have a very strong feeling in 60 or 90 days, I'll re-evaluate what I'm doing," Rafuse said. 

At the end of the day, Rafuse hopes that success in one business will translate to the next.

"I would like to build this brand as well as I built Brewster's brand," he said. "If I can do that, then I accomplished some of the hardest things in this economy than anyone could."

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