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Employees work behind the coffee bar at OCA Mocha, a new community space and coffee shop in Arbutus in a site leased from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Employees work behind the coffee bar at OCA Mocha, a new community space and coffee shop in Arbutus in a site leased from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. (Cody Boteler/Cody Boteler)

It’s opening day and the cafe is already buzzing. A pair of students walk in, past artwork hung on the wall and order at the coffee counter. Moments later, they’re sitting and chatting in a booth, while two officers from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, police department are placing their orders at the counter.

In another booth, a man with a cup of coffee is typing away on his laptop. Music is playing over some speakers, and an empty stage, lit almost entirely from sun beams pouring in through the window, could tempt any performer to jump up and sing.

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OCA Mocha, a coffee shop, cafe and community space on East Drive in the heart of Arbutus opened its doors to the public Monday. The opening comes after about a year of fits and starts, attributed to construction delays and other factors.

Deep Patel, a co-owner of the coffee shop, said business has been good.

“We weren’t, like, hit with 100,000 people at once,” Patel said. “There have been waves, but they’ve not been unmanageable.”

The coffee shop and community space was born out of a classroom at UMBC, focused on entrepreneurship and tightening the bond between the university and the nearby Arbutus community.

And just because it’s a university project doesn’t mean that it’s only open for students. Anyone is welcome to patronize OCA Mocha and make use of its meeting space.

The space is open from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays, according to its website.

A food menu, which will be provided by Performance Food Group, is still being developed and tested, said Patel.

The coffee, though, is roasting and flowing. The beans are sourced through Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company, a Crofton-based business that Patel said he especially liked because of the company’s values around sustainability.

Patel graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, earlier this year, and said it’s been about 2½ years of work to get OCA Mocha open since it was initially conceptualized in a classroom. The coffee shop, owned by OCA Mocha LLC, a company that Patel owns with his father and another investor, will operate the coffee shop, while the university maintains space in the back for offices and community meeting spaces.

The university is leasing the space in the building, at 5410 East Drive in Arbutus, on a five-year lease from the building’s owner, and is sub-leasing the coffee shop space to OCA Mocha LLC, said Marie Lilly, a spokeswoman for UMBC.

Lilly said she could not disclose the terms of the leases because they are dealing with two private entities. She said the university, which funded the construction work necessary for OCA Mocha to open, spent about $200,000 on that labor.

That money included about $75,000 from the Student Government Association’s funds. And, Lilly said, costs were kept low because of a “tremendous amount of donations” and flexible contractors who “were generous in their rates.”

Other funding for the project came from Patel’s family. They’ve so far invested about $100,000 into the business, and expect to invest about another $50,000 to pay for labor, supplies and other costs related to the actual operation of the coffee shop.

Right now, Patel said, he’s hired seven employees and two managers. He’s “always hiring,” students and other community members.

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