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Playing the Face Card

Best friends make a statement with Brownsburg coffee shop logo

By Chris Cornwall

Logos are meant to say a lot, and when Bob Goodpaster and Chico Mbanu decided to use their own faces to brand their new coffee shop, it wasn’t because they thought they were hotter than the joe they serve. The longtime pals who recently opened Best Friends Coffee and Bagels at 1060 E Main St, Brownsburg, say it’s a symbol meant to face racial tensions head-on with a story of friendship.

“You watch the news today and see the things going on like with the national anthem, and everything seems to come back to race,” Goodpaster said. “That’s why we chose our faces for the logo, not because we are conceited. For us, it’s like the media says that we are not supposed to be this type… To blow this up, and have that logo floating out there, and to give people a reason to believe in this, that’s important to me. I think America is ready to embrace that.”

Mbanu spent most of his formative years in Gary, Indiana, while Goodpaster grew up in Brownsburg. Although both are Indiana boys, they admit they were brought up in places that have some cultural differences. But if anything can bridge the gap among Hoosiers, basketball certainly isn’t a longshot.

They both attended Purdue University and met while working the bar scene in West Lafayette. Bob, who deejayed at well-known campus hangouts like Harry’s Chocolate Shop, said he was recruiting for a basketball team to compete in the Gus Macker, a streetball tournament held annually in many cities across the US.

For anyone familiar with the Gus Macker, signing a bouncer to the squad makes a lot of sense, and Chico was just that. He worked the door at many of the same bars where Bob spun records. They teamed up for the first time to play basketball and won the tournament. The two have been best friends ever since.

“I think what’s cool about us is this concept that two people from two different “racial” backgrounds and different upbringings can still bridge that gap and still have those conversations [about race]. But at the end of the day, you truly find out that you have more that unites us than divides us. And I truly believe that’s how it is with Bob and I. And I think that’s true for a lot of people…”

While Bob and Chico have found that their story is a great way to publically break down barriers of culture and race, going into business with your best friend is a mold many would advise not to break.

“Boy, we were warned against it, that’s for sure,” Goodpaster said. “There have been a couple stressful moments but we are both working hard to step in and fix it. You naturally get in each other’s way a little bit, but nothing that’s interfered with the business.”

Mbanu, who holds a Ph.D .and directs a biotech company, said his friend has been schooling him on the restaurant business.  Goodpaster earned a degree in restaurant management from Purdue.

“I’m getting a crash course from this guy,” Chico said. “This is all his domain and I’m kind of learning as I go. He’s my best friend turned my boss. But we were talking about it one night. We said this does not get in front of the friendship ever…

“No matter how many differences we have, we are still family, not just in this coffee shop but in life. We bring our families together. We tell that story to customers and it resonates with them.”

For more information about Best Friends’ Coffee and Bagels, check out Facebook or call (317) 350-2185.