How did Fido get its name?
Originally, the company’s second café was going to be a fraction of the size and be a coffee roasting operation with drinks and pastries being sold I the front. The name was to be Bongo 2go. Just as we signed the lease for this 1,200 sq ft space, the pet shop that had been in the space for 50+ years suddenly vacated the 2,400 sq ft space next door. We grabbed the extra space, decided to add a café and suddenly needed a new name.
Various names were considered for this operation located in Hillsboro Village before we settled on paying tribute to the previous tenant. Jones Pet Shop left a darn cool neon sign that featured a cartoonish dog coming out of a dog house. After throwing away such names as The Village Café, 1812 (the café’s address) and The Gathering Place, we decided we wanted to name the café after the dog on the sign.
We then looked to coffee history for inspiration. Legend has it that a goat herder named Kaldi led his starving flock into a deep part of the forest. There, they found a cherry that no one had ever seen. Of course, we now know the seeds inside this cherry as coffee beans. Many cafes and coffee blends take their name from Kaldi or goats as a nod toward this legend.
We looked further into history and discovered that Kaldi had a dog who was the true hero of the story. It was his keen sense of smell that led Kaldi and the goats to the cherries. The dog was named Fido.
Thus, we named our café after this dog who is too frequently omitted from the coffee legend.
Sidenote: The same space was also the original home of Bongo Java Roasting Co., which has moved several times and is now located on Tech Hill, inside the Alloy Development.
How did Bongo Java get its name?
The Journey to Bongo Java is the name of an unpublished book by Ernest Hemingway that BJ founder and wannabe creative writer found an unauthorized copy of in a Zambian bookstore ironically a few weeks after an original investor suggested it for completely different reasons. Bruce Gold thought Bongo Java connoted a 1960s style coffeehouse where Jack Kerouac sat around with his friends reciting poetry while someone wearing a beret and dark sunglasses played the bongo drums.
Why do you spell Café Au Lait as Café O’Lei?
Like Fido, this name comes from our attempt to correct history. From our research, the French got to name this common drink of brewed coffee with milk when a 100+ year international dispute was settled.
How did Grins get its name?
When Vanderbilt University first approached us to open a Kosher vegetarian restaurant on campus we of course said No. Not even the founder’s love of doing stuff first could supersede his reluctance to take on such a project. Vanderbilt was insistent and made the deal more attractive and the Bongo team decided to take a chance. Our first manager/chef took the initiative to look up various words in Hebrew to find an appropriate name. Names like Yarkot (vegetable), Yarok (green) and Navti (sprouts) didn’t work. Not to be deterred, she modified her search to look at Yiddish words.