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A spirit that is not afraid

Former manager turns Mama Mochas into Coffee Mafia

<p>Mama Mocha's location in Auburn is now under new ownership and rebranded as Coffee Mafia.</p>

Mama Mocha's location in Auburn is now under new ownership and rebranded as Coffee Mafia.

Mama Mocha’s coffee shop recently went under new ownership and a new title. Ian Oriol, store manager, recently purchased the South Gay Street location from previous owner Sarah Gill. Oriol previously served as the food supervisor, assistant store manager and general store manager of Mama Mocha’s.

“I have been working in coffee for four years, managed [Mama Mocha's] for three years, and I’ve been working in restaurant for seven years," Oriol said. "Working in the food-beverage industry is all I’ve ever known. I’ve been managing coffee shops longer than I have been making coffee. I didn’t even work here as a barista for nine months before I was made the full manager.”

When deciding to rename the store to create his own brand, Oriol wanted to refer to something familiar to the store. He wanted an open, friendly and unique name, settling on “Coffee Mafia.”

“We chose Coffee Mafia because it was new and different," Oriol said. "It allowed me to create my own brand and put my own spin on it but is also familiar to people that have been coming to Mama Mocha's and that have been getting coffee from us the last 10 years.”

The name had not come out of thin air, Oriol said. The term had been familiar with the employees and customers for quite some time.

“Mama Mocha's has been referring to its staff as the coffee mafia for probably as long as we’ve been open," Oriol said. "When I started working with Sarah to change the brand as I became [the] new owner and store manager, I decided to stick with something familiar.”

Coffee Mafia takes an alternative, nonconformist approach to furnishing their space and deciding their menu, Oriol said. There will be sofas and 40 different flavor options for drinks.

“If I had to put a label on the environment here, I would definitely say ‘90s, dumpster-dive, grunge, thrifty," Oriol said. "It is not bougie furniture, but it’s very comfortable. The idea is that you should be able to come in here and hang out with your friends. It’s just a little, cushy, comfy place.”

Oriol intends to maintain the culture of Mama Mocha's and sense of community while keeping it distinct from other brands of coffee shops. He hopes to make a career out of the business and stay local.

“What kept me here and made me want to buy the company and rebrand it is that we have always been organically this inclusive and welcoming space," Oriol said. ”I’ve always felt welcome to just be myself here, and I think people from all walks of life feel that way when they come in here. A lot of coffee shops are exclusionary. The goal is not to find a specific crowd and sell them coffee but really to just make good coffee and be a space for everybody from all walks of life. Everyone that comes in here should be comfortable and find something cool on the menu to try, because the mafia is for everybody.” 

Mama Mocha’s roastery will continue to operate under its original ownership in Opelika.

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