Waffler Avenue, a local retail concept created by Puerto Rican entrepreneur Rey Ramón, will open this week in the San Patricio area of Guaynabo to offer its menu of Belgian waffles, specialty coffee and handcrafted chocolates. A second location will open next month in Condado, building up to a total of seven restaurants by 2015.
With an initial investment of $750,000 in Guaynabo and another $250,000 in Condado, Ramón has set his sights on “going after Starbucks, but with a better product and a social commitment to Puerto Rico.”
Waffler Avenue is an original concept developed by Ramón over the past three years, featuring a variety of waffles — Liége, Brugge and Brussels — to be served with a range of toppings from fruit to chocolate. The waffles, made in-house following an original Waffler Avenue recipe, can also be used to make sandwiches and in salads. Liége waffles are smaller, sweeter and denser than the regular pastries, and are topped with a thin layer of caramel.
“There’s a misconception in Puerto Rico that we can’t do quality things and when something comes in with a stateside look, it automatically means it’s well-done,” Ramón said. “With Waffler Avenue, we’re introducing a Puerto Rican product with an Americanized look that is well-done.”
The 4,200 square-foot Guaynabo location, slated to open Saturday at the San Patricio Town Center, will also offer 100 percent Puerto Rican artisanal coffee drinks, as well as an exclusive line of handcrafted chocolate truffles and bars under the “Brujas” brand. The restaurant, decorated in bright blue-and-yellow colors and outfitted with modern features, includes a kitchen on the second level where the waffles and truffles will be manufactured to sell at the store and eventually wholesale to retailers, Ramón said.
“Manufacturing for wholesale will begin in mid-2014, we’ve already priced the machinery, to sell to retailers and export as well,” he said. “We’re already in talks with potential local clients and companies outside Puerto Rico to supply them with waffles and chocolate.”The two-story San Patricio location has a kitchen to make the waffles and chocolates.
The first two restaurants will generate more than 50 jobs combined, with the bulk assigned to the San Patricio restaurant, which also features Wi-Fi and power outlets to attract mobile executives and students.
The 31-year-old businessman has set up what seems like an ambitious growth plan for the chain, which he envisions proliferating quickly in Puerto Rico as well as off-island through franchising agreements. The first stateside store will open in Coral Gables next year, followed by another Florida location in Orlando, after which the Waffler Avenue footprint will spread to major states including New York and California, Ramón said.
Development plans also call for venturing into agriculture, as Ramón foresees being able to harvest his own coffee and cocoa beans in Puerto Rico. For now, the chain is working with a local coffee producer to supply the stores planned for the local market, he said.
“This is the business I have always dreamed of establishing, but I didn’t have the capital,” said Ramón, who has other companies in the areas of technology and entertainment. He has bachelor’s degrees in cinematography and business administration, as well as a master’s in business administration.