Tipping our cap to alumni who know how to multitask.
A Passion for Making the Perfect Cup of Coffee Melissa Weinman
Four Tech engineering alumni give Atlanta’s coffee scene a welcome international flair. Daniela Staiculescu and Octavian Stan have very diverse interests. They are engineers. They are urbanists. And they are really, really into coffee. So when they had the opportunity to buy the Condesa Coffee shop in Atlanta’s up and coming Old Fourth Ward neighborhood in 2011, they didn’t let the fact that they both had full-time jobs stand in the way. They teamed up with fellow Yellow Jackets Amin Rida, PhD ECE 11, an entrepreneur with a Silicon Valley startup company, and Moe Reda, AE 14, a coffee enthusiast who has jumped into the management of the shop. Staiculescu, MS EE 98, PhD ECE 01, is a graduate advisor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Stan, MS EE 95, PhD ECE 99, is an engineer with Erickson. Before they bought Condesa Coffee, neither had any experience in the food and beverage industry. “When we opened this shop we were completely clueless,” Staiculescu says. Cocktail Recipe by Condesa Coffee “But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Period. We’ve - 2 ounces Cathead pecan vodka learned a lot about ourselves - 1/4 ounce vanilla syrup - 1 ounce heavy cream and a lot about people.” - 2 dashes black walnut bitters It’s a radical departure from their engineering backShake and serve over ice with grated nutmeg grounds, but they look at Condesa as a creative outlet. They love the experience of tasting the complex flavors in a great cup of coffee and seeing the intricate designs swirled into the foam topping a cappuccino. But engineering and coffee overlap more than you might think, they say. “Coffee culture is chemistry and science,” Staiculescu says. “It
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touches on our nerdy side.” All four of Condesa’s owners made cross-Atlantic moves to study at Georgia Tech—Reda and Rida from Lebanon, and Staiculescu and Stan as a young married couple from Romania. Upon arriving at Georgia Tech in the 90s, they were surprised to find that Georgia’s capital city was not nearly as vibrant as their home in Bucharest. “Coming from Europe, it was a bit of a shock,” Stan says. The international students eventually grew to love their new city, and have watched it grow and evolve over the past 20 years. They’ve been especially interested in the renaissance of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Atlanta. “There’s this energy of people trying to change things here,” Stan says. “Atlanta in 10 years is going to be a completely different city. It’s being defined right now.” In 2011, they wanted to become part of the rising tide in the Old Fourth Ward, the once downtrodden neighborhood that in recent years has welcomed trendy new bars and restaurants. Stan says they were drawn to Condesa Coffee because they wanted to offer a sustainable coffee program and a gathering space to promote community. They recently celebrated their third year at Condesa, named by its former owners after an artsy neighborhood in Mexico City. Staiculescu said while it has been an incredible experience, it hasn’t been easy. Which is why they were skeptical when developer Gene Kansas, also an MBA student at Tech, contacted them about opening a second location on Auburn Avenue. Kansas is redeveloping the Atlanta Daily World building, the historic home of Atlanta’s first African American newspaper, to include high-end apartments and shops. “Why would I open a second location when I’m already so busy with this one?” Staiculescu says. “But we saw the building and it made perfect sense.” Staiculescu and Stan fell in love with the old brick building and were inspired by Kansas’ historically sensitive vision. They think Condesa Coffee will be a perfect fit for the Sweet Auburn neighborhood and offer a nice gathering spot for nearby Georgia State students. It’s another way they think they can contribute to their adopted city, one cup of coffee at a time. Josh Meister
A publication of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association.