Joe Maxx Coffee Brews Growth with More Stores

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Five years ago, Mike Avey took a gamble on a dream. The Joe Maxx Coffee Co., 47 Federal Plaza E., became his contribution to downtown’s resurgence.

Along with his partners, he has since expanded the company to new locations, including a drive-thru in the Cornersburg neighborhood of Youngstown, the campus of Cleveland State University, Englewood, Fla., and Henderson, Nev., outside of Las Vegas.

“One of my partners has a base business on the West Coast and has been out there for years. That’s what drew us out there,” Avey says.

A Mahoning Valley native, Avey spent over 20 years in emergency medicine before becoming an entrepreneur. He had read about growing opportunities for neighborhood cafes and decided to pursue a venture in the city.

“When I came downtown it was very underserved,” he says. “In fact there wasn’t any specialty coffee whatsoever in the whole downtown, so people were really excited to see us come in.”

He spent the next 600 days behind the counter at Joe Maxx building the brand. The downtown store now employs a mixture of 10 full and part-time employees.

“After an initial growth rate of 18%, we’ve settled down to about 10% to 12% growth year-to-year,” Avey says.

The name Joe Maxx comes from what Avey calls the “romantic legend” of a World War II pilot turned coffee entrepreneur. The store is patterned after a European-style coffee house, with an emphasis on pastries and healthful lunch fare, including breakfast sandwiches, soups and deli wraps.

Joe Maxx attracts students from nearby Eastern Gateway Community College, workers coming for their morning coffee or on lunch break, a variety of patrons working on laptops and businesspeople meeting clients.

A signature line of unique drinks, including the “Black and Tan,” a mocha featuring real peanut butter, and the “White and Dirty,” a cinnamon vanilla latté, help Joe Maxx stand out from the competition and keep customers coming back, according to Avey.

He views Joe Maxx as a quintessential third place, which is a social setting outside of home and work. “One thing about a café is that it’s a great place to connect,” Avey emphasizes.

The coffee business is competitive, but he sees future room for growth in Mahoning Valley and beyond.

“It’s a great business because it’s a repeat customer business day after day after day, Avey explains. “There’s certainly a lot of pressure put on business expenses, but for the most part, it’s still a continuously growing market that is exciting and looks like it still has a lot of great upside here and at other locations.”

To celebrate the five-year anniversary, the business is undergoing a “facelift.” The interior has been repainted; new fixtures and decorations added, and new menu items are now available, such as shepherd’s pie and chicken potpie.

“We’ve grown into a destination, and we are excited about the future,” Avey says.

Pictured: Mike Avey at his downtown coffee shop.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.