Da Vinci’s Coffeehouse and Gelateria will host a grand opening celebration Friday at its new 813 S. Van Buren location, marking the latest development in a local company that is growing, and aiming to redefine how locals experience coffee.
The growing enterprise, now co-owned by Nick Jackson, Ben Burleigh and Corey Keller, was founded in November 2003 by Alexandria and James Meek at the original location, still open at 2315 W. Willow.
Jackson, who grew up in and works for the family business, Jacksons of Enid, said he got into the coffee business when his friend, Jordan Allen, bought Da Vinci’s while home on a break from Bethel School of Ministry, in Redding, Calif., back in 2012.
After a little more than a year, the break ended, and Jackson said his friend tapped him to take over Da Vinci’s.
“He said, ‘I have to go back to Bethel, so you’re going to have to buy this coffee shop,'” Jackson said with a laugh.
Jackson said he was attracted to the entrepreneurial aspect of owning a small business, but quickly discovered he didn’t know enough about craft coffee brewing to run it on his own. He found that experience in David King, with whom he partnered for three years, before King moved on to a career with Enid Fire Department.
That left Jackson again looking for someone who could match his entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for the complexities of craft coffee. He found that partner in then-head barista Ben Burleigh, who’d been with Da Vinci’s since the Meek family owned it. Burleigh and Jackson partnered, and in 2016 they rebranded the company as Da Vinci’s Coffeehouse and Gelateria.
From the outset, Jackson said that rebranding was focused on keeping the Da Vinci’s identity people had come to know, while bringing in the most authentic gelato and espresso experience possible.
“If you walk into a gelateria in Rome, most of the time you will see the same machine” as the one at Da Vinci’s, Jackson said. “We wanted to be authentic.”
However, Jackson also had dreams of growing the business, and toward that end he and Burleigh brought in Corey Keller to capitalize on his experience in restaurant management.
Originally from New Mexico and raised in Kansas City, Keller came to Enid after he married Lauren Gray, daughter of Enid photographers Wess and Jolene Gray.
He started out at the bottom in food service, as a busboy at age 13, later moving up to cook and eventually manager of several restaurant locations in Oklahoma City and Kansas.
Keller said through all that experience he’d come to pursue craft coffee as a passionate hobby — a passionate hobby he got to put to full-time use when he took over as general manager at the original Da Vinci’s about 18 months ago.
He said the most rewarding part of the job since then has been getting to know the Da Vinci’s regulars, and sharing his passion for coffee with new patrons.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know our regulars,” Keller said, “and diving into building relationships with our customers and just educating people that there is so much to coffee and so many different ways to enjoy it.”
Expanding ways and places to enjoy coffee has been a work in progress at Da Vinci’s for more than four years, Jackson said.
Not long after he purchased Da Vinci’s, Jackson also purchased a former residential property at 525 S. Arthur, immediately east of Westgate Plaza, with aims of turning the house into an eclectic coffee shop. However, the property became embroiled in a four-year dispute over rezoning the residential property for commercial use.
With the South Arthur location in question, the partners bought the former Port Lugano location at 813 S. Van Buren last May, and began extensive renovations to turn it into a new Da Vinci’s location.
Building the new business was a family affair. Jackson’s wife, Maggie Jackson, did the interior design for the new location, while Burleigh’s wife, Hogan Burleigh, assembled the barista staff and saw to details of the shop environment, down to the music and social media presence.
“Da Vinci’s South” opened on April 29, but in the interim the South Arthur location also cleared its zoning hurdle last November. Work has begun there to build parking space around the former residential property, but Jackson said the Da Vinci’s partners are still working to define how it will fit into the overall company, with “each location being unique, but also still being Da Vinci’s.”
Expansion also has taken Da Vinci’s to Vance Air Force Base, where a walk-up coffee bar that also serves breakfast and lunch was opened adjacent to the squadron operations buildings in January.
Jackson said that location, managed by Tyler Rake, took about three years to open, as Da Vinci’s worked out details with the base, but it has been busy since it opened.
As Da Vinci’s continues to expand, the business also is gaining ground in introducing more customers to the evolving world of craft coffee. It’s been a balance, Burleigh said, between meeting people’s longstanding expectations of Da Vinci’s and introducing them to “all coffee can be.”
“It’s been interesting,” Burleigh said, “because we’ve been able to take that original concept of espresso and gelato, and we’ve been able to bring that into the changing culture of what coffee is becoming.”
Da Vinci’s now works with Bodhi Leaf Coffee, a wholesaler that sources directly from farmers across the world, and brings the raw beans directly to Vitruvian Coffee Roasters of Enid, operated by Blake Stevison and Chad Eastin at 911 W. Broadway.
“We have been able to introduce a new coffee culture, but also to do it without changing what Da Vinci’s has been to so many people,” Burleigh said. “If you come out and buy a frozen Da Vinci’s now, it’s going to be the same as it was when you found Da Vinci’s in high school.”
Jackson said Burleigh’s passion for curating beans and crafting coffee is key to the Da Vinci’s culture.
“Ben is who really brings the soul to Da Vinci’s,” Jackson said. “He is the leader of the coffee culture of Enid.”
As the company grows, the partners said they want to maintain that focus on and passion for creating high-quality coffee and a welcoming place to gather.
“We want Da Vinci’s to be that place where people can come and get to know their barista,” Keller said, “spend time with family and friends, and really have it be more than just a coffee shop.”
Story provided by Enid News & Eagle
Written by: James Neal