Date August 9, 2023
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Pawtucket's Hazel Origin Coffee to open new café location in Brown's Brook Street residence hall

Designed to include ground-floor retail space open to the public, the University's newest student housing project will bring a unique, family-owned coffee shop to College Hill beginning this fall.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On Brook Street in Providence, near the southern end of Brown University's campus, students will begin moving into the University's two newest residence halls in August — but the undergraduates won't be the only new tenants.

Pawtucket-based Hazel Origin Coffee is set to open a specialty coffee shop this fall on the ground floor of Chen Family Hall at 250 Brook St. The building is one of two newly constructed Brown residence halls, along with the adjacent William and Ami Danoff Residence Hall at 259 Brook St., between Charlesfield and Power streets.

By leasing space from Brown, the small family-owned business will open its second retail location, establishing a distinct eatery in College Hill serving premium, organic coffee, tea and smoothies along with handcrafted, locally sourced baked goods, sandwiches, salads and snacks.

Founded in 2022 by Lincoln, R.I., residents Olvin and Dulce Lopez, Hazel Origin Coffee is a coffee wholesaler that specializes in importing and selling sustainably sourced coffee beans from Central and Latin American growers. Its wholesale customers include major retailers including Dunkin' and Starbucks and independent New England coffeehouses, cafes and restaurants, including Providence-based Mills Coffee Roasting.

The married couple and business partners said that expanding the company with a café in Providence has been an aspiration from the start. Originally from Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, the two entrepreneurs grew up in the coffee industry. Dulce’s mother is a leading coffee buyer for Honducafe, a coffee exporter. After college, Dulce joined the business, operating the family’s coffee shop in La Lima, Honduras. At the same time, Olvin co-founded INLOHER, a coffee exporter, and led the company for over 13 years.

The couple immigrated to the U.S. in 2022 through the Immigrant Investor Program, created by Congress to stimulate the economy through job creation by global investors. Now, the new Rhode Islanders are preparing their Brook Street café for a mid-fall opening. With a long-standing knowledge of coffee cultivation, Dulce Lopez said they hope to showcase diverse flavors from different coffee-growing regions while sharing the origin of the beans they import, roast and brew each day. 

coffee producer
Hazel Origin Coffee partners directly with family-owned coffee farms in Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia to import the beans they roast and brew each day. Photo by Hazel Origin Coffee.

"At Hazel Origin Coffee, you will taste the differences and unique characteristics of coffee from Colombia, compared to Guatemala or Honduras," Lopez said. "Our farmers pick every single bean by hand, and it's important to us that we share the work of the coffee producers. When students and other customers come in, they'll see a display board each day detailing a region and farm where our coffee is grown so that they can learn the history behind the coffee they're drinking.” 

An ideal space for Hazel Origin Coffee’s new café

The business owners see College Hill as a prime location for their second retail location. The number of existing coffee shops near Brook Street is limited, and the frequent foot traffic from students, neighbors, professionals and visitors means Hazel Origin Coffee can count on a steady flow of potential customers — including the roughly 350 Brown undergraduates who will live directly above and across the street. Opening the coffee shop in a newly constructed, modern building was also attractive, Dulce Lopez said.

"We looked at different locations in downtown Providence and liked one site, but it was originally used as an office and would require us to make major changes," she said. "Once we toured the retail space that Brown was building, I knew we had to have it — with the tall windows, the entire space is beautiful. When Brown selected us as the tenant, we could not be more excited. Who gets to build their business in a brand-new location? That never happens."

John Luipold, vice president of business affairs, auxiliary services, and real estate at Brown, said Hazel Origin Coffee is an ideal tenant for the new retail space. In considering potential lessees, the company’s farm-to-cup business model, sustainable sourcing, and passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of the coffee industry all stood out.

“As early as the first conversation, it was clear to us that Olvin and Dulce possess a deep dedication to the craftsmanship of coffee,” Luipold said. “The wholehearted approach they take to everything about their business will create an exceptional coffee experience for College Hill students and residents. We see the Brook Street café as the beginning of their growth and success as new business owners here in Rhode Island.”

Luipold said that actively supporting Rhode Island business owners through hiring and purchasing goods and services, with a particular focus on boosting ventures owned by members of historically underrepresented groups, is part of Brown’s deep commitment to its home city.

“Whenever possible, we prioritize finding a tenant based in Rhode Island, and ideally, one that is a minority or woman-owned business,” he said. “Creating opportunities for new partnerships with local professionals, whether leasing retail space or expanding diversity within our list of registered vendors and suppliers, are critical investments we can make in the local business community.”

For neighbors and students, a new retail dining option

Situated at the corner of Brook and Power streets, the new Hazel Origin Coffee café will create an inviting focal point in the neighborhood for both Brown students and College Hill and Fox Point residents. Informed by community input, creating space for a new retail venue that could bring unique and convenient offerings to Brown and Providence community members was embedded in the planning for the project, said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy at Brown.

“With the new Hazel Origin Coffee café, the neighborhood becomes even more of a magnetic place to live, work or study,” Carey said. “Brown is committed to being a good community partner. With this new retail space and local business, we hope to meet a neighborhood need for retail space and create a sense of place that fosters community and vibrancy.”

Featuring both indoor and outdoor seating options, the new café will create a welcoming, lively urban space that contributes to a sense of community among students and local residents. Moreover, the residence hall’s exterior surroundings — which include two new accessible green spaces — revitalize the streetscape, create new open spaces for public use, and increase the tree canopy in areas to provide more shade for pedestrians.

For students, the Hazel Origin Coffee café creates a new coffee and food option on the southern end of campus. Currently, the closest Brown dining venue is Josiah’s, a popular evening and late-night eatery. The new café on Brook St., particularly given its breakfast and lunch items, will diversify and complement student dining choices.

Brenda Ice, senior associate dean and senior director of residential life at Brown, said that café extends the sense of community on campus and with local neighbors by creating a new meeting spot.

“Our research shows that community and connections tend to happen for most college students around meals,” Ice said. “For us, the idea of adding a retailer in that space that is centered in food, like quick, grab-and-go sandwiches and snacks is ideal. Our mission in Residential Life is to promote a sense of belonging, and that doesn’t always have to happen simply where you’re living in a residence hall — we can create those spaces for connection all around campus, and the new Hazel Origin Coffee café is a great example of that.”

For Hazel Origin Coffee, the ability to serve students and other customers at the new Brook St. café fits into a larger plan for expansion.

The company's Pawtucket headquarters serves mainly as a warehouse and roastery but the family is now adding a café, industrial kitchen and bakery to prepare the grab-and-go menu offerings such as pastries, baked goods, sandwiches and salads. The Pawtucket café will also host coffee tastings, Lopez said, in its new coffee cupping lab, used mainly in the industry by coffee professionals to assess the quality and characteristics of coffee beans. As a result of all of their growth, the company will expand from six to roughly 15 employees this year.

"For our wholesale clients and anyone who just loves coffee, the cupping lab will offer people a chance to learn about coffee and how to taste the difference in the roasting techniques and brewing methods," Lopez said.

Beyond showcasing the nuanced flavors and complexities behind every sip, the couple hopes customers leave Hazel Origin Coffee knowing the family business works with purpose and a deep love for what they do.

"Because we grew up in the business and love coffee, we put our hearts into everything," Lopez said. "It's not just a business, it's a passion — I think our customers will be able to see that in the quality of the coffee and all that we bring to our cafes."