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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Opus Coffee plans to host birthday party to celebrate its 20th anniversary

The event will be on March 20 at 4th Ave Food Park

Opus Coffee Airstream
Opus Coffee Airstream

What was once one coffee cart inside of Alachua General Hospital is now one of Gainesville’s most beloved coffee companies.

Opus Coffee, a Gainesville-based coffee company founded by brothers Tim and Bret Larson in 2002, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this March. A birthday celebration will be hosted on March 20 at the 4th Ave Food Park from 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

“So many people choose Opus every single day for their coffee and hang out there,” Tim Larson said. “It is very humbling.”

Opus and other Gainesville favorites such as Feliz Flavors Ice Cream and Satch Squared Pizza and Waffles will sell food at the event. Live music performances by Gainesville-based artists Mr. Aullie, Richy Stano, Ali and Will, Bears and Lions and Dan Flok will run throughout the event. Attendees can take pictures in the photo booth and enter a giveaway for the chance to win different Opus merchandise like mugs, t-shirts, stickers, koozies, candles and hip bags repurposed from Opus Coffee bags. For kids, there will be face painting and balloon animals.

Opus’s locally roasted coffee has become a staple for Gainesville coffee lovers. The road to becoming a local favorite was not easy. 

Tim and Bret were in their early 20s working in a coffee shop at a Miami hospital when they decided to start Opus, Tim said. They took their business proposal for a coffee bar located within a hospital and traveled across Florida to pitch their idea to different hospitals. After many rejections, they reached Gainesville. Alachua General Hospital was looking for someone to open a coffee shop.

Although Alachua General Hospital closed in 2009 and is now the site for Innovation Square, Opus has since grown to eight coffee shops across Gainesville. However, Tim said Opus’ success did not come without challenges. 

“When we first opened, we were just trying to survive,” he said. “For the first couple years, we just lived off tips, and everything went back in the business.”

While doing maintenance at different locations, he sometimes stares at the coffee bars in disbelief of the company's steady growth.

“We are just so lucky to be able to serve coffee here for 20 years, and I can't believe it's us,” he said.

Expanding Opus’ reach has been a recent development for the company, as there are plans to move the headquarters from the 4th Ave Food Park to a larger location south of Depot Park sometime this spring. Additionally, a ninth location inside of the upcoming apartment complex, The Row, located on 13th street, is scheduled to open in the fall. 

Opus’ online business has also grown exponentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tim said although the goal is to expand Opus’ customer base, keeping its roots in Gainesville is essential to the company’s continued success.

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Angela Cloonan, a 21-year-old Opus barista, started working at the company in July 2021 and loves being a part of what she described as a “positive and uplifting team.” 

“What keeps me at Opus is definitely forever and always my coworkers,” she said. “It is such a great group of people and everyone is so like-minded.”

Even during the busiest and most stressful rushes, Cloonan can always count on her coworkers to crack jokes throughout the day. 

“They train us in a way that we get the drinks out fast, but we also get the drinks out and they're good,” she said. “We know how to make good coffee.”

Partnerships with local businesses and creators is another way Opus engages with the Gainesville community. Cloonan emphasized the importance of these partnerships due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local small businesses.

Opus’ online store showcases the company’s collaborations with other local businesses, such as the Opus Coffee Espressoap, a product collaboration with Gainesville’s Stink Lewis’ Soap. Opus has also collaborated with college-student organizations like UF’s Swamp Records to promote Swamp artists’ song releases through QR codes printed on coffee sleaves.

“I really admire what the owners Tim and Bret have done,” she said.  “They've built this awesome company with a great company culture and so many locations that are so successful and well-loved in Gainesville.”

As a UF student always on the go, Kyle Hamilton, a 20-year-old public health and women studies sophomore, loves to satisfy his caffeine fix with a cup of Opus’ coffee. 

About once a week, he visits Opus for what he calls a “reset.” Hamilton enjoys the peaceful atmosphere of Opus’ Airstream location at 4th Ave Food Park and interacting with the employees. 

One of Hamilton’s best friends is an Opus barista and she constantly talks about the efforts Opus makes to give back to the community, he said. This includes participating in raffles for college-student organizations and working with other Gainesville small businesses for events.

“I feel like with Starbucks and Dunkin, you grab a coffee and go, but Opus is out here highlighting small businesses and genuinely uplifting college students,” Hamilton said. 

For Mia Crisostomo, the 22-year-old Opus marketing and events coordinator, collaboration was the main reason she has her position today after starting as an Opus social media coordinator in Spring 2021. After coming to Opus’ owners with the idea of repurposing the company’s burlap coffee bags to create garments for her online business Redefined Goods, Crisostomo was invited to the team. 

“I think that they are super open to collaborations, super open to seeing how they can help, which I think is really awesome,” Crisostomo said.

Working at Opus has given her many opportunities to work on fun projects that also help give back to the Gainesville community, Crisostomo said. Some projects have included organizing a clothing swap with the UF Thrift Club at Opus’ Innovation location and a sustainability-focused market with local vendors at the 4th Ave Food Park, where a percentage of the proceeds were donated to Porter's Community Garden.

Opus is also always willing to donate items like coffee bags, gift cards and candles to organizations that reach out, she said.

“The fact that they will say yes to those small requests pretty much 100% of the time,” Crisostomo said. “I think that's really admirable.”

Follow Amanda on Twitter @afriedmanuf. 

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