AP NEWS

West Odessa attracts coffee franchise

April 15, 2019

A business owner is eyeing opportunity in West Odessa, where residents say development for a growing population’s needs is often overlooked.

Maurice Torano, owner of Odessa’s The Human Bean on University Boulevard, said he is looking to grow the drive-thru coffee franchise’s presence in the Midland-Odessa market.

“As far as service businesses that provide them coffee or lunch there’s very little out there,” he said. “The market is underserved.”

Torano said market research findings showed about 22,000 cars pass through University Boulevard and the current shop location serves about 400 customers daily. He said Farm-to-Market Road 1936 and West University Boulevard are well traveled roads that have almost double the amount of traffic.

“I cannot believe how many people there are here in (Midland-Odessa),” Torano said. “There are approximately 30,000 or 40,000 people in West Odessa,” but “there’s not much of anything out there in terms of coffee so we think it’s going to be a good location.”

In 2017, Odessa became the first city in Texas to have the Oregon-based coffee chain and since then its owner has been working toward building out the brand. He said he was able to fast track plans with help from the Odessa Business Challenge.

Torano entered the six-month competition, which is hosted by the Small Business Development Center at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and funded by the Odessa Development Corporation, and he came out on top with the largest prize winnings.

He said the $150,000 he was awarded in March will go toward construction, equipment and operations for a site in West Odessa.

Property has not been acquired for a future location but Torano said those details are currently in negotiation. Torano said customers ask employees on a regular basis if they plan on bringing a site to West Odessa.

Carmen Ferrer manages operations at The Human Bean and said they even have one customer that makes the trip from West Odessa to their store every day.

Torano anticipates solidifying property by June and beginning construction in either August or September, and if the timeline goes as scheduled The Human Bean could be open for business in the county by mid-October.

“We will pick a location that has a lot of morning traffic, convenient entrances and exits and good visibility,” Torano said.

County resident Sarah Rolen said although the population and traffic in the area have increased over the years since she moved to West Odessa in about 1994, few businesses other than Dollar General, Sonic, mom and pop businesses and game rooms have settled in.

“Out here you don’t have a lot,” she said. “You have a few small restaurants but nothing that you can really sink your teeth into. I would love to see an improvement out here but what kind of improvement I couldn’t tell you.”

Rolen said she would be more interested in family-oriented businesses and public parks coming to West Odessa to serve the residents’ needs than coffee shops.

“There’s really nothing out here for families,” she said. “That’s why everybody is always going into town. The west side is forgotten and everything is happening on the east side.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Eddy Shelton said county officials are trying to get a handle on the growth occurring outside of city limits. He said his precinct was one of the fastest growing areas.

Ector County Judge Debi Hays said that by 2025 they expect at least 65,000 more people to move to the county due to increased activity in the oil industry.

There is one concern that Torano is keeping in mind with the ongoing oil boom in the Permian Basin.

“You can find land here unlike other places, you can have a market unlike other places and people are not price sensitive here like in other places,” Torano said. “All the other issues that other markets have challenges with we don’t have, but we have the one that they don’t.”

The franchise owner said retention of staff will be one of The Human Bean’s greatest challenges going forward with expansion because they cannot compete with oil and gas industry salaries. He said despite that obstacle he is willing to push through difficult times that may arise to establish the brand for the long term.