BEHIND EVERY MAN: David Levesque’s company, Brewed Awakenings CoffeeHouse, was founded in 1996 and has since grown to about $4.5 million in sales. By his own admission, he may not be where he is without the input of two strong female voices – his mother, Kay, and his wife and Brewed Awakenings co-owner, Natalie.
David Levesque has a lot for which to thank the women in his life, and he’s not shy about giving credit where credit is due.
After all, if he hadn’t followed the advice of his mother, Kay, or his wife, Natalie, he might not today be half of the team, with Natalie, that owns four Brewed Awakenings CoffeeHouse locations that serve up to 1,000 customers each daily.
“I have to give credit to my mother. She said, ‘Why don’t we sell coffee,’ and I said ‘It will be a lot of work’,” Levesque said. “She said we could do it.”
And they did. Natalie’s helpful suggestion, which convinced a reluctant Levesque to add a sandwich menu to his shop’s offerings, would come later and many years after the Rhode Island native first entered the state’s entrepreneurial scene.
In the mid-1980s Levesque was a young adult without any formal education, having not finished high school, running the vending department at Johnson & Wales University.
There was a lot of freedom in his position with hiring and ordering, which Levesque said gave him a sense of being his own boss without the worry of how he would actually make money.
“One day I just decided to put out a vending machine of my own. I did that for several years with trial and error and that ended up leading into the office coffee business,” Levesque said.
He was busy stocking local businesses and offices with their weekly coffee supplies when the opportunity to purchase a gift basket presented itself and soon he was the owner of Bella Baskets on Atwood Avenue in Johnston.
That’s when his mother, who was working with him at the basket shop, put her 2 cents in about serving coffee to customers.
“I put out one machine, and soon we had a coffee shop inside the gift-basket shop,” Levesque said. “It seemed to be a steadier source of income, where baskets were extremely seasonal.”
Five years later he expanded to a second location in downtown Providence, opening just before Sept. 11.
Limited parking and, admittedly on his part, a lack of planning, ultimately equaled failure there.
“Business was all over the place, and I lacked the experience on how to build a shop. I took what I was doing in Johnston and mimicked it, but we had no engine behind it,” Levesque said. “It was ignorance and a lack of experience. It was a difficult close, and it cost us a lot of money.”