Sunday, July 14, 2024

Members of the Survivor Corps international charity share a cup of coffee in late July 2008 with Rwandan Ambassador James Kimonyo at Bourbon Coffee’s grand opening in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Lionel Gahima)

The coffee shop that was to fill the empty Marino’s Restaurant site is instead coming to the Porter Exchange, the former Sears building now famous for its pan-Asian cuisine and shops and as a home for Lesley University.

Bourbon Coffee, a Rwandan coffee shop and bakery with locations in Rwanda and Washington, D.C., plans to open this summer in the Porter Exchange, as well as in New York City, said a manager at the Washington site on Monday.

The Cambridge news, mentioned last week at a long-term planning committee meeting for Massachusetts Avenue, was confirmed Monday by Bill Doncaster, a Lesley spokesman. (Thanks to economist and City Council candidate Charles Marquardt for pointing out the news in advance of a Lesley press release.)

The coffee shop will be at the front of the exchange, with its own door to the avenue, Doncaster said, in space once occupied by The Gap. When the clothing retailer left, its store was split into three spaces — two of which became a Citibank branch and small dry cleaner and the last of which was leased by Starbucks.

Starbucks ultimately backed out of its plans as part of a nationwide restructuring, and the dry cleaner closed, allowing Bourbon to recombine the spaces and move in. It had been planning since October 2008 to move into the Marino’s space at 2465 Massachusetts Ave. but recently broke the lease, said George H. Katis, of Cambridge-based StoneRiver Properties LLC.

Now it will be about two miles away at 1815 Massachusetts Ave. And instead of replacing a restaurant gone for three and a half years, it will fill a space that has been empty for about two years, by Doncaster’s estimate.

Its nearest competition will be Café Zing, which is inside Porter Square Books, a Rosie’s Bakery at 1796 Massachusetts Ave., and Simon’s Coffee House at 1736 Massachusetts Ave. There is a Starbucks on the avenue closer to Harvard Square.

While each of those has its advantages — inside a bookstore and next to a video store, for instance — Bourbon Coffee has a mission to, among other things, “Improve the lives of coffee farmers by paying higher prices” and “Change the perception of Rwanda in the global community.”