Side Track Coffee, located by the train tracks in downtown Opelika, is a coffee shop that has become known in the community for its odd menu and unique atmosphere.
With a minimalist, warehouse-style , flanked on both sides by an art gallery and a local, artisan marketplace, Side Track Coffee offers a place to study, a place to peruse art, and a place to talk to your neighbors.
According to the owner and operator of Sidetrack Coffee, David Bizilia, that is exactly the goal of this shop.
David Bizilia, Auburn local, has an extensive background working in the coffee industry.
“It’s always coffee,” Bizilia said. “Coffee and people.”
Owning his own coffee shop has always been a dream of his.
“This is like 10% of the dream,” Bizilia said looking around the bustling shop, “We still have a lot of plans.”
There are no prices here and visitor’s pay only what they feel their drink is worth.
Bizilia and his partner Buddy founded Side Track in April 2016 and the two originally worked out of what is now the art gallery.
“It was really rough at first, and we were pretty much working every day out of such a small place,” Bizilia said. “We were basically in a closet. It was tough.”
He also stresses the roles other business owners played in helping him start his coffee house, namely Wade Preston, owner of Prevail Union on South College, as well as the owners of the building and his team of friends that pitched in wherever they could along the way.
Bizilia plays a hand of cards, makes a young woman a cappuccino and returns to the interview, wearing more than a few hats on this busy Sunday afternoon.
The shop’s unique style and prices — or lack there of — start as far back as the founding of the business.
“Our first week being open, we didn’t have a license to sell food, so all we could do was take donations,” Bizilia said.
It didn’t take long to see how this business model affected the customers.
What was once just a transaction, a mere swiping of a debit card, became a conversation.
“Me and Buddy had been in the coffee industry for a long time, and we’d see the same people coming in,” Bizilia said.
“When people found out we didn’t have prices there was a totally different dynamic.”
Everything from the way you pay, to the understated decoration of the warehouse-style shop, to its adjoining art galleries, aims to create an atmosphere of engagement not just between the baristas and customers, but between the customers themselves too.
“Our objective isn’t just to be another coffee shop,” Bizilia said. “People first, always.”