Where cars once gassed up at a Sunoco gas station, coffee drinkers will now be gassing up at 1200 Pontiac Ave. in Cranston.
Home to the newest Brewed Awakenings, owner Dave Levesque said the store, which opened April 10, takes his brand "to a whole new level," and he's not just referring to the giant coffee cup held high and illuminated on a sign visible from Route 37 and I-95 and 295.
"This gives so much identity and visibility to our brand," Levesque said.
To think of the brand, Levesque said, imagine taking Starbucks, Panera Bread and Dunkin' Donuts, putting them into a bag, and shaking it.
"You can get your coffee, you can get a muffin or baked good, you can come in for lunch and have a sandwich," Levesque said.
The formula seems to be working — the first store opened in Johnston 15 years ago, just off Route 6 next to Ribs & Company.
Then came the location in South Kingstown in the South County Commons development off Route 1. That location has steadily grown into a bustling destination for teenagers between showings of Twilight and The Hunger Games at the nearby cinema, college students looking for free WiFi, and locals seeking a more-local alternative to other coffee shops.
After opening a second Johnston store near the Johnston Police Department, Levesque now finds himself poised to launch the brand into something much bigger.
The new location on Pontiac Avenue could be a starting point, he said, and with an estimated 34,000 cars driving by every day — and great exposure thanks to the skyward sign — there's no better place to start.
The new store is his most "beautiful," he said, and he's using it as a testbed for new ideas and concepts. Though it might seem hard to innovate in the highly-competitive trade, Levesque is finding ways, such as the iced coffee tap system similar to draught taps at your favorite bar.
"Now we can be like 'boom, boom, boom,'" Levesque said, acting out a fast-acting barista dishing out drink after drink.
With the old system, you take out the iced coffee, pour it in the cup, put the coffee back in the cooler, add the cream and sugar, etc.
With the taps, different flavors and varieties of iced coffee can flow simultaneously with the flip of a lever.
The extra speed will help, since the spot is in a high-traffic area. Many Cranstonians and people who work nearby have been wondering how the traffic with cars coming in and out of the new Brewed Awakenings will ever flow smoothly.
But Levesque is confident that people will adjust to the traffic pattern. He also said he will have police details during busy periods to help keep things moving in the early days. He noted that the state Department of Transportation has plans to add turning and travel lanes and adjust the traffic light timings, which will dramatically improve traffic flow.
The site has a lot going for it, Levesque said — but added he wouldn't have decided to take on the location if it weren't for that big sign.
"When I saw it, I knew we had to put a big coffee cup on there," he said.
The best feature? The black tower will seem to disappear at night and the cup, illuminated by spotlights below, will appear to be hovering in the sky.
The sign was erected by Poyant Signs of New Bedford, MA, in early April.
Brenda Hurst, project manager, said Levesque is lucky to have found a location with the right structure in good condition to make the sign possible.
"It was a real lucky break," she said.
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