Borjo Coffeehouse returns under new ownership « News @ ODU

By Joe Garvey

Faculty and students returning to campus for the fall semester will find that an old favorite has returned to Monarch Way.

Borjo Coffeehouse, which offers “pretty serious coffee, food and other good stuff”, has resumed operations.

It had been a popular meeting place for 15 years. But TASTE, which acquired Borjo in 2016, opted not to renew the lease at the end of 2019. Borjo’s original owners, Jon Pruden and Rob Loomis, who are also co-owners and operators of TASTE, closed the cafe in December .

It reopened on July 5 under new owner Bill Odom, who had been a regular at the original Borjo.

The response over the summer has been overwhelmingly positive.

“At first we didn’t have to-go spoons, we didn’t have to-go containers, we didn’t have stir sticks. We didn’t have sugar packets the first day we opened” , said the general manager. says Monica Kello. “Everyone was like, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re then Glad you’re here.'”

“I got a lot of compliments on the coffee and the food, of course, but also the staff,” Odom added.

Odom became interested in bringing Borjo back in large part because of Kello.

“What was driving the train was Monica,” he said.

They met when she was 14 and a student at his martial arts studio, Norfolk Karate Academy/Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Norfolk. Over the years, she had become so skilled that Odom asked her if she would be interested in becoming a full-time karate instructor.

“She said, ‘Yeah, okay, okay. But my real experience is in catering,’” recalls Odom. Kello, who graduated from ODU in 2017 with a double major in Art and Asian Studies and a minor in Japanese, has worked at several local food establishments.

“I said, ‘How do you feel about running your own coffeeshop? She said, ‘That would be the best of all worlds,'” Odom said. “I said, ‘OK, hold that thought.'”

Earlier this year, Odom contacted Maggie Spillane of SL Nusbaum Realty Co., the retail broker for the ODU Real Estate Foundation, and asked about Borjo’s location. Spillane knew Odom from his martial arts studios and had rented him space in strip malls in Hampton Roads.

She told him that Tara Saunders, the foundation’s executive director, had filled in for Equinox, which had signed a lease for the Borjo space in February 2020 – just before the pandemic hit – and closed in 2021. .

“I was hoping another independent coffeeshop would move in because a college campus isn’t complete without one,” Saunders said.

Odom said to Spillane, “Boy, I have news for you.”

Spillane is then called Saunders.

“I was thrilled,” Saunders said. “I knew the campus and the community would be thrilled.”

The foundation and Odom entered into a lease at the end of April.

Odom brought back the Borjo name thanks to Loomis.

Loomis explained that when TASTE acquired Borjo, it also obtained the Borjo Coffeehouse and “Fairly Serious Coffee” brands, which TASTE used in drink bars at some of its locations. In January, Loomis said TASTE’s lawyers were asked to “draft a licensing agreement which basically said that as long as Bill operates the cafe on Monarch Way, he can use the Borjo brand name at no charge, and TASTE will cease to to use the Borjo brand in its stores.”

Odom, who had also bonded with Loomis out of a love of martial arts, is grateful for his friend’s support.

“He always comes in – he takes a bike ride every morning and his route will take him this way,” Odom said. “He’ll stick his head in. He just hooked up our printer at reception. If there’s a problem, he comes and solves it. Not to mention it’s been his baby for 15 years. He knows every nook and cranny.”

Borjo, open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, is gradually expanding its offer.

“Monica couldn’t have done a better job of bringing it all together operationally, from hiring staff and doing it in a phased manner to managing the menu,” said Odom, who has eight employees, including five ODU students. “And basically what she’s been doing is every other day they’re adding an item. And they’re testing it, making sure they know how to do it because at the end of the day when someone comes in and says, ‘I want this’, we have to have our routine, make sure it’s 100% correct and it has to be fast.”

What are the most popular items?

“Most of our money is spent on lattes, in particular, and cold brew,” Kello said. “Cold brew is literally all we sell. I got a few compliments on the breakfast burrito, which is nice, and the rest of the compliments are on the cold brew. Our other big seller is lemonade. Selling us lemonade like crazy.”

Plans are for Borjo to eventually offer beer and wine and bring back entertainment.

Saunders believes the coffee is in good hands.

“They’ve been doing really well since they opened,” she said. “He had the money. She had the dream.”

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