Café Augustine Coffee and Doughnut Shop Opens Downtown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Café Augustine, a doughnut and coffee shop, has opened in the Western Reserve Transit Authority bus station building downtown.

For now, it’s open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., serving fresh coffee and other drinks, plus doughnuts that are made daily at the site.

Saturday hours will likely be added in the coming weeks, said the Rev. Edward Brienz, who operates the café in the space formerly occupied by Plaza Donuts.

Brienz launched Café Augustine in 2015 inside the Newport branch of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County. It closed in the past year.

Café Augustine is an outreach program of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown that teaches life skills and offers social services and employment to those who “have been disconnected from the working world,” Brienz said.

The café at the library worked with more than 475 people, age 15 to 25, during its run, Brienz said. 

“[During that time], our focus shifted from those disconnected from the workplace to folks with broken family relationships, mostly due to addictions,” Brienz said.

While the café at the library was a lunch spot, the new location is focused on coffee and doughnuts, with plans to add salads and other grab-and-go lunch items.

“We make doughnuts every morning,” Brienz said. “It’s a transferable work skill, along with customer service. We give people a place to go to work and rebuild their lives.”

In addition to its social work, Café Augustine also helps young religious leaders gain experience.

Dominican brothers based in Washington, D.C., work as interns at the café every summer. 

Currently, Brother Patrick Mary and Brother Anselm are working daily at the new downtown location. Both brothers wear the white habit of their order while at the shop. They are staying at St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church rectory, Patrick Mary said. The work helps the brothers gain experience relating to people from less fortunate parts of society, which helps them in their ministry, Brienz said.

Brienz is stationed at St. Columba Cathedral, which is just a few blocks away from the café. He’s pleased to be part of the downtown neighborhood. 

“Everything has been very upbeat, and we have had a warm welcome from all who have stopped by,” he said. “It’s a good time to be in downtown Youngstown.”

A new sign announces Café Augustine at the WRTA bus station in downtown Youngstown.

While Federal Street in front of the bus station is currently closed to traffic because of road reconstruction, the sidewalk remains open to the café’s front door. Patrick Mary said he expects business will improve once the street reopens.

Brienz had his lower left leg amputated two months ago and now gets around on an electric scooter. It has helped him relate more to those with disabilities.

“I am attuned to the needs of people with mobility issues,” he said. “I can tell you which sidewalks have big cracks or have blocks that don’t line up.”

The many street and sidewalk reconstruction projects underway downtown will help people like him, Brienz said.

“All the work they are doing is fabulous,” he said, citing the curb cuts on the sidewalks at intersections that improve accessibility to those using wheelchairs and scooters. “I’ve been [noticing] the concern that city planners are giving, and I’m pleased.”

Pictured at top: Brother Patrick Mary, Mac Haynes and Brother Anselm stand behind the counter at Café Augustine in downtown Youngstown. Haynes works the counter, while the two brothers are summer volunteers.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.