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Published: Wednesday, 5/5/2010

Web remarks lead Biggby's to stay in Ohio Building


Chatter on social networking sites on the Internet apparently helped keep a downtown Toledo coffee shop from relocating, according to its owner.

Mohamed Shetaih, owner of the Biggby's Coffee franchise at 420 Madison Ave., said he planned to relocate the coffee shop in downtown, but was persuaded otherwise by customers' comments on the Internet.

The location was closed late last week with the intent of moving about two blocks away. Mr. Shetaih said the store would reopen in the same spot this week.

Mr. Shetaih, who lives in East Lansing, Mich., previously said costs associated with the site made it uneconomical to stay on the first floor of the Ohio Building. But "somehow, we're going to make it work there," he said yesterday.

David Ball, owner of the building, said the rent was reasonable, but Biggby's revenues had suffered the last few years with the recession.

"But with the new arena now, we're seeing a lot more foot traffic around there," he said.

Mr. Ball said he and Mr. Shetaih reached an agreement whereby Biggby's will upgrade and remodel its site, including a new, more colorful awning. He didn't give details but said the building would "make it easier for them to operate there."

"We believe that with these changes, in two or three years their numbers will be back up to what they were," Mr. Ball said.

Mr. Shetaih, who owns 20 Biggby's stores, said he began rethinking his planned move to a location on Jefferson Avenue after reading customers' comments.

"The support that we have from people who go [to Biggby's] was overwhelming. There was a lot of social media talk about this on Facebook and Twitter," Mr. Shetaih said.

The Biggby's site in the Ohio Building has sold gourmet coffees since 1993. The DeBacker family of Toledo opened their Sufficient Grounds coffee chain there when the premium coffee retail trend took off two decades ago.

In 2002, the Sufficient Grounds chain was bought by the Beaner's coffee chain of East Lansing. Beaner's name later was changed to Biggby's.

- Jon Chavez

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