He blames the economy in general, the price of gas in particular, and the fact that more people are leasing cars and aren't so invested in them. "So I decided I needed something that would fit for this area. I decided a coffee shop that also sells beer and wine. I figured that's where it's all going--coffee, beer and wine, bigger stores."
Michigan law is a little touchy about issuing liquor licenses to gas stations. Not wanting to be seen as directly promoting drinking and driving, the law requires gas stations to jump through a number of hoops that separate the two (including the ludicrous requirement that the fuel pumps and the alcohol be physically separated by fifty feet). The biggest obstacle--the one that necessitated a demolition and a rebuild--is that gas stations that carry alcohol must have at least 55,000 square feet or maintain inventories of at least $250,000 in nonalcoholic items. That's more than a few shelves of Doritos. Ajrouch's expanded inventory even includes fresh hummus and fine cigars.
He considered several coffee franchises--Biggby, Coffee Beanery, Dunkin' Donuts--"but most people wanted Tim Hortons," he says of the Canadian donut chain that claims to be bigger than McDonald's on its home turf.