BROKEN ARROW - The vision of Romeo's Espresso Café in Broken Arrow began long before its grand opening last month. Owner John Buchanan came up with the concept as a student at Oral Roberts University when he first met Dr. Joseph Mukasa.
Mukasa was a professor who taught Oral Communications at the university. Throughout the class, Buchanan built a friendship with his professor and learned that Mukasa was on the board of an orphanage in Kyengera, Uganda -- The Good Shepherd Children's Home.
The orphanage was founded in the 1960s by Mukasa's mother.
"It actually started when she found someone throwing their child literally in the trash because the family didn't have the money to raise the child," Buchanan said. "So she took the child home and nursed it to health and started raising it, and from there on, that was kind of her ministry in life until she passed away."
After Mukasa's mother died in the early 2000s, he son took on a leadership role of the children's home. As a student, Buchanan would often meet with Mukasa on Fridays to pray for the children of the home and ways to find revenue for them.
"We have about 10 kids in the orphanage and over 500 on the waiting list," Buchanan said. "So were looking at ways to get that waiting list down and it takes funds to get there. And we wanted a lasting sustainable source of funds."
And that is when the idea for Romeo's came to them.
Two years ago, Buchanan, who became a board member for the orphanage in 2006, and Mukasa began taking steps to make Romeo's a reality. Buchanan, an insurance agent, and his wife, Faith, described the last few months as intimidating.
"It's been exciting, but a big thing for us," Faith Buchanan said. "We have experience in business but not the restaurant business, so this was a little more than we thought it would be. But every step of the way, Dr. Mukasa would pray over every plan that we had and every idea John would bring them up to him and lay his hands and pray that God blesses our plans and efforts."
The store opened its doors to the public in April, but Mukasa, however, was never able to see it come to fruition. Mukasa passed away in January of this year. It was devastating to Buchanan, who called Mukasa one of his very best friends.
"He was a dear friend. He was a mentor, a teacher," John Buchanan said.
But in the midst of the pain and grief, the Buchanans said they "took up Dr. Mukasa's mantle" to continue his legacy and build up the orphanage.
The owners will donate 10 percent of all its sales to the children's home in Uganda.
"As we grow we hope to increase that by quite a bit," John Buchanan said.
The owners also hope to establish Romeo's as a franchise, with plans to open up their second location in the next year or two.
With live music nights throughout the week and plans to build an outdoor stage, the Buchanans also said they are looking forward to a part of the local arts and entertainment district that is being established.
"Broken Arrow is like our home," Faith Buchanan said. "We love to be involved in giving back to this community, as well as the orphanage."
Above all, the owners hope their new business will be a representation of their faith and the memory of Mukasa.
"Dr. Mukasa was kind of the inspiration for this, so it just shows you how much difference one person can make inspiring somebody," Faith Buchanan said.