Bravo Espresso employee Andrew Meissner thought nothing of longtime customer Emma Behnken’s question Tuesday, Jan. 5, at the downtown Rochester shop.

“Does Bravo take donations?” she asked.

Meissner told Behnken yes, they accepted checks, and went about his day.

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Behnken came back roughly an hour later. While Meissner was helping a customer, she slipped a $600 check face down on the counter and left before Meissner could talk to her.

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When he turned the check over, he was overcome with emotion.

“I just immediately grabbed my phone and went on Messenger and said to them this was way too generous, and, I don’t know, I got a little teary and lost for words,” Meissner said. “At Bravo, we’re grateful for the people coming in and buying a dollar cup of coffee. All the little stuff is keeping the boat afloat, but I sat on it a couple days because even to this day, I haven’t had the words to thank them. I’ve been messaging them the last couple days.”

What Meissner didn’t know was that Behnken and her husband, Cory, had been planning a donation of this kind for several weeks. They agreed they wanted to put their latest stimulus check back into the community.

Meissner had also been giving back, by ordering lunches and buying items from local small businesses. When he posted about it on Facebook, the Behnkens expressed their support.

“Andrew has really connected with a lot of other local small businesses, so he’s been really diligent about supporting a lot of those businesses personally, and posting and spreading awareness,” Emma said. “Besides Bravo just being awesome and Andrew just being awesome, just seeing him do the same thing to our community was just an additional reason to know they were the right recipients of our donation.”

Cory and Emma Behnken have been Bravo Espresso customers for over 10 years. Emma made the $600 donation on Tuesday, Jan 5. (Contributed photo)
Cory and Emma Behnken have been Bravo Espresso customers for over 10 years. Emma made the $600 donation on Tuesday, Jan 5. (Contributed photo)

Emma and Cory have spent their entire lives in Rochester, where they both attended John Marshall High School. The city has always been their home, which gave them another reason to give back.

“We’ve been here our entire lives, and just seeing what COVID has done everywhere, but especially downtown … It’s pretty devastating,” Cory said. “It was an easy decision on our end.”

Meissner has worked at Bravo Espresso for 20 years and planned to buy the store in July before the pandemic took its toll. He’s hoping the donation will help get the store, and his plans for it, back on track.

“Donations like this definitely help the ball go in the right direction,” he said.

Since sharing the news of the donation on Facebook, Meissner said he’s received an overwhelming response, but he still hasn’t quite wrapped his head around the Behnkens' generosity.

“All this stuff has just kind of blown me away,” Meissner said. “It’s all appreciated, and we have an awesome, loyal customer base."

Bravo Espresso & Gourmet on Monday, January 11, 2021, in the Shops at University Square in downtown Rochester. The coffee shop recently had a $600 stimulus check donation from a local couple. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Bravo Espresso & Gourmet on Monday, January 11, 2021, in the Shops at University Square in downtown Rochester. The coffee shop recently had a $600 stimulus check donation from a local couple. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Derek Kostka makes a coffee on Monday, January 11, 2021, at Bravo Espresso & Gourmet in the Shops at University Square in downtown Rochester. The coffee shop recently had a $600 stimulus check donation from a local couple. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Derek Kostka makes a coffee on Monday, January 11, 2021, at Bravo Espresso & Gourmet in the Shops at University Square in downtown Rochester. The coffee shop recently had a $600 stimulus check donation from a local couple. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Bravo Espresso & Gourmet on Monday, January 11, 2021, in the Shops at University Square in downtown Rochester. The coffee shop recently had a $600 stimulus check donation from a local couple. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Bravo Espresso & Gourmet on Monday, January 11, 2021, in the Shops at University Square in downtown Rochester. The coffee shop recently had a $600 stimulus check donation from a local couple. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)