January 2, 2019

Fuel America bringing cafe, roastery to Worcester

Photos/Grant Welker
Fuel America is run by managing partners Jeff Bonasia, Rick Vallarelli and Carlos Magalhaes. A new Worcester location joins one in Boston.

When sitting in the Fuel America cafe on Front Street in downtown Worcester, a patron doesn't have to wonder where that cup of coffee was roasted.

The machinery, pained a bright red to match Fuel's logo, is stationed right there, on the other side of two massive garage doors. Where another cafe might roast elsewhere or put its back-of-the-house operations out of sight, Fuel America puts it on display, front and center.

"We were impressed by the theater it created," said Rick Vallarelli, one of three managing partners for the company.

Fuel America opens Saturday in Mercantile Center as the latest name to open in downtown Worcester. The cafe joins 110 Grill, which opened last year across the street in a new AC Hotel, and a Fidelity Bank and Elizabeth Grady spa just down Front Street in the new 145 Front at City Square apartment building.

Vallarelli and fellow managing partner Jeff Bonasia said they chose Worcester for their second location because of the city's economic strides and the potential they saw in a big, highly visible downtown space. They opened the first Fuel America location in Boston near Boston College in 2012.

"We feel like we are on the cutting edge of the boat," said Bonasia, who formerly worked in marketing for the Boston advertising firm Hill Holliday, where his client roster included Dunkin' Donuts. "We feel like we have good timing."

Bonasia met Vallarelli, who has a background in construction and real estate, through a financial partner, and the two then added Carlos Magalhaes, who manages operations. Fuel America is meant to appeal to serious coffee drinkers without being artificial or over-the-top, Bonasia said.

"We're going to create great coffee, but we want people to have a great experience without pretension," Bonasia said.

The cafe includes sandwiches, smoothies and beer on draft from Worcester's Flying Dreams Brewing Co. Among other local offerings, Fuel America has Worcester's KrafTea Kombucha and MEM Tea of Cambridge. The owners plan to include tours and tastings of the roastery.


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