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Cafe Space on Pike Street to Get Another Go

It was one of the new business spaces redeveloped during Covington march towards the creation of an Arts District along the Pike Street corridor. The 1860s building at 222 Pike saw all three of its floors beautifully redone, with two condos on the second and third floors, and a fully equipped cafe with all the modern design touches one could want on the first.

Pike Street Press opened.

But the arts district initiative never saw much success and was eventually scrapped altogether. Pike Street Press closed.

Then, Pike Street Cafe opened.

Absent of foot traffic and convenient parking for commuters, though, that version of the cafe was doomed, too.

The space has been vacant ever since, went into foreclosure, was purchased, and is now being leased by a new coffee shop.

This time it's different though.

In addition to the fully leased Pulse Lofts, the new Market Lofts directly across the street are completely full, too. The two buildings directly next door are also being redeveloped to house personal residences and commercial spaces. Two, maybe three new businesses are in the early stages of opening or have opened on the block.

Suddenly, this little corner of Pike Street, just west of the CSX tracks and the Covington Station, is looking nice.

"We went to Cincinnati, Erlanger, Covington, just looking for the right spot," said Bobby Robinson, one part of Robinson Brothers International Coffee. The other brothers are Brent, Billy, and Buddy, and then there are sisters Becky and Betty Jo. 222 Pike Street will be known as Buddy's Cafe or Uncle Buddy's Cafe, Robinson said, and the other brothers will open their own Robinson Brothers International Coffee location in their own corners of the country. Most of them have spent a lot of time abroad from Europe to Asia, to South America and the Caribbean, in the military and as missionaries.

Bobby and Buddy are local to Northern Kentucky and previously operated a kiosk at the Florence Mall. Now they're going for something bigger. "The foot traffic is not the best in that area of town," Robinson admits, "but there's not any competition, there's no restaurants, no fast food, nowhere to get a cup of coffee, nowhere to get a sandwich. We're between (Mainstrasse) and Madison."

Their mother, now living in Independence with Bobby who relocated from Arizona, is backing her children's venture. They plan to use their international adventures to inspire the shop's offerings. "For instance, when we open up (at the end of February), the Brazil harvest will just be finishing so we'll have fresh Brazilian beans, fresh off the bush, fresh from Brazil and fresh roasted," Robinson said. "From the bush to your coffee cup in a month, maybe two, so probably the freshest Brazil coffee you'll taste in your life."

There will be Brazilian cuisine to go with the coffee, as well as fruit juices and veggie drinks. The Robinsons want to offer plenty of heart healthy options. Then, every few months when a new coffee comes in, the international flavor would change. 

The Robinsons are also aware of the difficult road ahead to make the business work, particularly in its chosen location. "I saw it and fell in love with it. I called my brother and he fell in love with it. My other brother fell in love with it. His new bride loved it," Robinson said. "It's just a matter of trying to cater to local businesses and doing deliveries for lunch, something different than a fast food restaurant."

"If you're at work and you're busy, you're on the phone, you ask for Jamaican chicken jerk sandwich, with a fruit juice on the side, it's there in half an hour. You need to reach out to these other businesses and that's what we're going to do."
Story & photo by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News * Follow RCN on Facebook, Twitter, or email us!
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