Al Quds cafe moves to capture student market

Al Quds cafe moves to capture student market

August 30th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Al Quds cafe, located at Houston and Vine streets, opened three weeks ago.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.
  • Name: Al Quds Cafe & Gelato
  • Location: 426 Vine St., next to University Pizza and Deli
  • Products/services: The new cafe serves a variety of coffees, snacks and sandwiches from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Electric outlets and Wi-Fi are installed so students can work while they snack, and seating is situated both inside and outside. Breakfast sandwiches are available all day, as are fresh bagels, hot paninis and local coffee from Main Street bean crafter Velo Coffee Roasters. For something sweet, the store offers Gelato, a rich and creamy Italian ice cream, and cold-brewed coffee, which is stronger than normal coffee. Manager Heidi Vasterling also serves Arabic coffee and various types of tea. Customers can recline on a rich cowhide bench, held in place by stripes of decorative copper.
  • Startup investment: $55,000
  • Estimated sales: $250,000 per year
  • Target market: Owner Akram Musa hopes to attract students, professors and intellectuals who will read, study and chat.
  • Biggest hurdle: Musa had to overcome trouble with the building's old drainage system.
  • Biggest reward: Musa thrives on the presence of regular customers, and prides himself on hiring professional baristas to serve in his well-appointed cafe.
  • Challenges in the future: Keeping prices affordable for students is a challenge in the face of rising food costs nationwide.
  • Lesson learned: Musa was surprised by the cost of labor and equipment, which was five times more expensive than he estimated.
  • Five-year goal: "I would like to see this become a study spot where people want to go because we serve good coffee," he said.

-- Compiled by staff writer Ellis Smith, esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315