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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa finds success, expands

TAMPA — The tiny Kennedy Boulevard coffee shop Dave and Susan Ward started in February 2010 and named for their dog is about to expand into a larger space and grow its roasting operation.

Customers know Buddy Brew Coffee for the intimate setting, the growling red Diedrich coffee roaster in the sitting area and the baristas who possess encyclopedic coffee knowledge.

That formula propelled the brand to grow rapidly as a neighborhood hangout and a wholesale roaster. A year ago this week, Buddy Brew opened a second location 15 blocks to the east, inside the Oxford Exchange.

Ward said Tuesday that the original shop at Kennedy Boulevard and Albany Avenue will grow to 4,700 square feet from 1,300 square feet, allowing the company to expand the menu, offer more seating space and provide room for a new roaster that will increase production capacity. The coffee company took over the entire building at 2020 W. Kennedy Blvd. about a month ago.

After the remodeling, which could be completed by Nov. 1, the expanded store will be the template for future shops.

“This will triple our roasting footprint,” Ward said. “The customer experience will still include seeing the coffee roaster. It’s just not going to be as in-your-face as it is now.”

Ward began roasting coffee as a hobby in the garage of his South Tampa home. Friends encouraged him to open a shop.

Then the economy deteriorated, their careers as commercial real estate brokers faltered, and the Wards opened the shop.

At first, there were no firm hours of operation. When customers stopped coming, they would close for the day. They now have two dozen employees, including an executive assistant, a bookkeeper and a financial officer.

While all of the growth was happening, the Wards completed the adoption of their son.

“From where I sit, it’s been the hardest three years of my life,” Dave Ward said. “But it’s been the most exciting, crazy, wonderful three years.”

The couple is exploring new locations for shops, but no firm decisions have been made. Until then, they are expanding their corporate office space and formulating an employee training program.

“There will be more Buddy Brews,” Ward said. “This [remodeling] will allow for our expansion.”

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