SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

October 10, 2012

Gusto Cafe serves cup of world's hospitality

Call it an American dream with a shot of espresso. The way Albana Meta sees it, there’s enough good will — and coffee — to go around for everyone, if you just work hard enough.

So six months ago, despite an ominous economy, Meta, 39, of Danvers, opened Gusto Cafe at 280 Cabot St. in Beverly and renovated what was formerly the Trevi coffee shop. She’d searched for two years for her own place, all while working two and three jobs, including four years at Starbucks in North Beverly, where she learned much of the coffee business. She was just about to sign a lease for a cafe in Peabody when she learned the Trevi owners were moving on.

Now she has seven part-time employees and a steady stream of customers, many of whom she knows by name, coming for Stumptown direct-trade organic coffee, fresh paninis, and homemade gelato and soup. Business has been so good that Meta — who can’t seem to finish a sentence without a smile or a laugh — says most of her friends are surprised at the early success — especially given the legendary presence of the nearby Atomic Cafe.

“Where I come from in Europe, there are coffee shops everywhere, so it’s no big thing to have one so close,” she said. “We have something for everyone.”

By everyone, she means college students, business neighbors, senior citizens and families, who come regularly for a Guatemalan roast to go or a Kenyan blend to linger over while studying or writing. The leisurely atmosphere is as intentional as the cafe’s name, Gusto, which Meta says is a word used in her native country of Albania that loosely translates to “a person’s unique style.”

“Gusto — it’s what you like, what you eat or wear that makes you you,” Meta said. “And that’s us. It’s important to me that people feel comfortable here. I want them to feel like a guest in my home where I can take care of them, where they don’t have to rush.”

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