As evidenced by the ongoing “revitalization” of new storefronts populating the 13th street and 6th Avenue west corner in downtown Bradenton, native Bradentonians Keith Nasewicz and Ben Greene of Oscura Cafe and Bar are hoping to make Oscura the hub of local, craft culture.
“I think we’re trying to create a cultural outlet for people here, something for the artists, and the musicians, and the people who are interested in that,” said Nasewicz. “We want to be the flagship for it and see where it grows, and hopefully we’re trying to get this street really developed and turned into the ‘mecca’ of trend and art and music for 13th street in Bradenton.”
Nasewicz and Greene’s journey towards building their own “mecca” in Bradenton began years before in 2005, as the two Manatee High School students would orbit the now-closed V Town Surf and Skate III skateboard shop where Greene worked. The two cite the V Town’s casual meeting spot atmosphere as a precursor to what is now Oscura.
The two spent years apart as Nasewicz went off to college to study psychology, briefly flirting with becoming a psychologist before pursuing a photography career that rekindled his creativity. Greene’s post-high school years were spent traveling nationwide with a touring “metal-core” band at 19, where his curiosity in the music business inspired him to start his own music label.
After his time in the music business, Greene’s interest in business grew into becoming a full-fledged serial entrepreneur in recent years, where he launched several startups locally. Nasewicz meanwhile was burning out on the heavy traveling of his photography career, where he later transitioned to launching tech startups of his own centered around application development.
According to Nasewicz, it was around this time Greene approached him about starting a business in Bradenton.
“Growing up, I mean, you would hear it so often your friends saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to get out of Bradenton, Bradenton’s lame, there’s nothing to do here,’ when in reality there’s so much opportunity here,” Greene said. “We have some of the best beaches in the world, we still have that small-town feel, everybody’s friendly, everybody’s cool here. And so coming back to that as an adult and seeing its potential was exciting,” Greene added.
In conceptualizing their vision for what would become eventually become Oscura as their business, Nasewicz and Greene knew that they wanted to start a cultural trend for other businesses in the area to blossom.
“When we did our research we found that a meeting place, something like this, where there’s more of a curated experience; whether it’s the high quality of the coffee or the food or the drinks that we offer, things like that, and it developed more into a coffee shop as the primary focus,” Nasewicz said.
When trying to figure out what they would eventually name this new business, the idea of coffee as a ‘dark matter’ that gives energy that “binds the universe” became a prominent theme. Greene credits Nasewicz with the trending idea of changing the language, where they discovered the Latin translation of dark matter as “materia obscura.”
Formerly the location of Foster Drugs and Surgical Supplies that bookended the 13th street west corner for over fifty years, Oscura’s bright white exterior storefront and DIY aesthetic was self-financed and designed by Greene and Nasewicz themselves. According to Greene, Nasewicz’s preoccupation with interior design has been evident since the beginning of their friendship.
“He will straight up be reading an interior design catalog when we’re playing Call of Duty or just goofin’ off,” Greene said. ” He’s just so into that and so good at it.”
Oscura’s DIY aesthetic also influence their approach to their ever-changing menu. Greene and Nasewicz do not have formal culinary training but credit their research in traveling to the cities on the forefront of contemporary restaurant and coffee culture. From experimenting with the coffee soda to new tasting and pairing menus as well serving beer and wine trivia nights for the over 21 crowds during the evening, Greene and Nasewicz explained that Oscura’s goal of being the craft destination for Bradenton includes a plethora of upcoming events.
“We want to develop our own market in our area, something new for the craft person to get plugged in with,” Greene said. “We’re definitely trying to shake things up, get people excited.”
In looking towards future expansion, including an outdoor wine and beer garden, to partnerships with local breweries for Oscura-brand beer and friendly city flea market on Feb. 23, Greene and Nasewicz praise their longtime friendship and their connection to the local business community for Oscura’s continued success.
“If you’re looking to start a business, surround yourself with the people who have the experiences and have the strengths, and realize you have weaknesses that you need those people as a team to help you with,” Nasewicz said. “And work with your community, don’t fight them. That’s a big part of it.”
For more on Oscura Cafe and Bar’s list of events and updates, visit Oscuracafe.com.