After six weeks of operating at its new Gray location, Aroma Joe’s is ready to hold a grand opening Thursday, July 28.

During normal operating hours (5 a.m.-9 p.m.), Aroma Joe’s will be giving away prizes and free 16-ounce hot or iced beverages. Local 97.9 DJ Rob Steele will entertain from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. There will also be discounts on the store franchise’s signature drinks, a frozen espresso called “FroJo,” and a flavored energy drink called “Rush.”

The coffee shop, one of 42 branches of the franchise in Maine and New Hampshire, is owned and operated by Jennifer and David “Deke” Gillies of Sanford. The Gray store has been serving caffeinated beverages and pastries since June 13, David Gillies said.

The couple was inspired to open an Aroma Joe’s store in part because of the company’s dedication to community. A few years ago, the couple was considering opening a franchise, but hadn’t landed on a business. 

Around the same time, Jennifer Gillies’ friend died, and she started soliciting donations from local businesses for a silent auction to benefit the woman’s children. She said she found Aroma Joe’s to be very giving.

The company donated to the auction and gave pastries to the school system in North Berwick, where her friend, Amy Harris, had worked as a special education teacher. Aroma Joe’s apparent dedication to community, combined with the couple’s love of coffee, made it clear it was the right franchise to invest in, Gillies said.

By hiring local young people and offering discounts to local businesses, they are looking to build community around their own branch of the franchise, the couple said. Of the 13 new hires, David Gillies said, many are local high school students and recent graduates.

Gillies said although the shop is a drive-through, they are looking to cultivate a “coffee-house atmosphere.” Per company policy, there are no intercoms, so all of the interactions are face-to-face.

The shop also uses local products and services, such as Oakhurst Dairy and New England Coffee Roasters, Gillies said.

They sponsor regular “business of the day” events, where employees from a local business can get a free coffee at the Gray shop.

They’ve found the town of Gray “a great place to do business,” David Gillies said. The town staff and business community have been “very supportive.” 

And the business community is happy to have Aroma Joe’s, according to Kathy Tombarelli, town planner.

“It’s obvious by the success they’ve experienced so far they have found a niche in specialty coffee and other menu items,” she said.

The couple is expecting their second child next month, and plans to relocate to Gray from Sanford after that

From left, Jennifer Gillies, Danielle Tollin, Morgan Baston, Courtney Keller and David Gillies lean on the walk-up counter at Aroma Joe’s in Gray. Keller, a recent graduate of Gray-New Gloucester High School, said she likes working as a barista because it’s a “fun environment and people are really welcoming.”