Side Track’s David Bizilia talks coffee, community
By Morgan Bryce
For Side Track’s David Bizilia, a single cup of coffee not only represents refreshment, but a means of establishing lasting connections that can positively affect someone’s life.
“I want everyone who walks through the door, everyone who sits in these seats, to feel like it’s their coffee shop. I like to think that what we make and do is bettering people’s lives, and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life – making people’s lives better,” Bizilia said.
A lifelong Opelika native, Bizilia said he discovered his passion for coffee as a high school senior, working as a barista at the Overall Company and later, Salud.
“One of my good buddies I worked with at Overall, Reese Shirey, showed me and told me how important coffee culture is. I became aware that this drink was something known around the world, that this was something people do,” Bizilia said.
After Salud closed its doors for good in April last year, Bizilia said he was soon approached with the idea of opening his own coffee shop.
“Wade Preston with Prevail Coffee over in Auburn and John Marsh called me up and we started throwing together ideas. We just put our heads together and Wade thought of the idea of just opening something for the summer,” Bizilia said.
Along with Prevail employee Buddy Foster, Bizilia said they spent three days renovating and constructing a small space to house their seasonal business, and officially opened April 20.
Following a successful summer, Bizilia said Foster left in the fall to focus on school, leaving him as Side Track’s sole proprietor.
“Before April 20, owning a coffee shop was not in my head. I loved coffee and wanted to work in it for a long time, but that was not a part of my plan,” Bizilia said. “But, God opens and closes doors at will, and His will is way greater than mine.”
More than a year later, the business is thriving.
Bizilia said Side Track completed a major expansion at its 817 S Railroad Ave. location last October, and that the shop now has a full coffee bar, adequate seating and a space in the back that is used for intimate concerts and art/photography exhibitions.
The menu at Side Track possesses the traditional array of coffee offerings like espressos, lattes and cappuccinos, but has alternatives for non-coffee drinkers including tea and handmade drinks such as Strawberry Milk.
A unique aspect of Side Track is their pay-what-you-want model, a system that Bizilia said fits in perfectly with both his and his staff’s mindset.
“We had an employee meeting about this the other night, and we got to talking about it. We came to the conclusion when someone gives us 50 cents, and someone comes up and gives us $100, and they order the same drink, from start to finish, we’ll treat them the same and make their drink the same,” Bizilia said. “We want to affect both people and treat them with honesty and integrity, and take that mentality outside these doors. Sometimes life will give you 50 cents for your hard work, and sometimes $100 for your hard work, and we have to treat them both the same.”
Relying mostly on word-of-mouth advertising and a strong social media presence, the 21-year-old Bizilia said his passion for coffee and the people that come with it are a driving force behind his business’s success.
“Without coffee, I don’t think there’d be a smile on my face … I don’t think my relationship with my family would be that good, I don’t think I’d be here and I don’t think I’d be as full as I am. Because right now, my tank is overflowing,” Bizilia said. “I consider myself as a vessel of joy … and when you get to see someone’s life get better by just talking to them, shaking their hand or giving them a hug, and being blessed because of that, it’s amazing.”