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[whitespace] Drinx keeps its customers buzzed

Campbell--Commuters jonesing for their morning fix of caffeine have been lining up at the Drinx drive-thru in Campbell Plaza for almost nine years. On Aug. 14, owner Keon Vossoughi opened a new, larger Drinx right next door to the old one.

The coffee capitalist says his Winchester Avenue drive-thru is the first in Santa Clara County.

"When I opened this, I called it a drive-thru 7-Eleven," he says. ìWe had every kind of drink. I got rid of all of the other drinks, and now it's just coffee."

Vossoughi narrowed down the refreshment menu to include only the drinks one would expect to find in a coffee shop and modeled his business after In-N-Out Burger, which has been successful with its short menu of only three hamburgers.

Standing outside his store, waving at several regulars, Vossoughi estimates that he gets about 500 customers a day at each of his locations--the other one is near Homestead Road and DeAnza Boulevard in Cupertino. Some of his customers return to the drive-thru three or four times a day, spending up to $20 per day on caffeinated beverages.

"They call me a legal drug dealer here sometimes," Vossoughi says, laughing.

Business peaks at 6:30 a.m., and two employees at each location churn through a steady stream of customers for three solid hours.

"In the morning, there are 10 cars lined up on each side," Vossoughi says.

Now and then, Vossoughi says, when someone cuts in line, road rage incidents ensue.

"We've had fist fights when someone cuts in front of someone else," he says.

Vossoughi says the idea of a drive-thru beverage stand came to him when he was operating his coffee cart in downtown San Jose.

"It was like a hot dog cart but it was an espresso cart--very high-end," he says. "People would drive up, park in the red zone and run to get their coffee."

He realized it would be a smoother process if customers didn't have to get out of their cars at all.

Vossoughi is a Bay Area native, born, raised and still living in Willow Glen. His parents once owned a restaurant--Renzo's--where Hawgs Seafood Bar is now located at 1700 Campbell Ave. They've owned La Hacienda, a Monte Sereno restaurant, for the past 28 years.

Growing up in the restaurant business, Vossoughi, 35, says he had no choice but to work as a busboy in his parents' restaurant, and swore he'd never take up the restaurant torch. He reneged on that promise but says coffee commerce has been good to him.

A Willow Glen High School graduate, Vossoughi earned a degree in business economics from St. Mary's College in Moraga. He's raising two girls, ages 18 months and 3 months with his wife, Michele.

Managing his two stores is a full-time job that keeps him running between locations and his cellular phone ringing constantly.

"There's always a problem with the espresso machines," Vossoughi says. "They're great, but they're also a problem."

He boasts that the machines are top of the line and that all of the drinks are made by fully automated machines to maintain consistency.

"If you get a drink here once, it will taste the same every time," he says. "Starbucks is different every time you go there."

Because the stores keep him so busy, Vossoughi says he'd like to start licensing prospective owners rather than managing more of his own stores. This means he would license people who are interested in owning their own Drinx stores. He compared it to the McDonald's franchises, but said obtaining a license for a Drinx would obviously be much less expensive. Most owners of McDonald's restaurants need to be wealthy before they buy a store because the cost is typically more than $1 million.
Erin Mayes

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