Originally deployed in 2006, Salvatore DeFranco served in the United States Navy as a member of the Sea, Air, and Land division (more commonly known as the Navy SEALs). He was set to be deployed again in 2008, but while he was off-duty, he was struck by a vehicle in an accident that left him with brain trauma, impaired hearing, and a titanium plate in his head.
For two years, DeFranco struggled to cope with the effects of his injury. With short-term memory loss, personality changes, and the loss of senses like taste and smell, DeFranco fought to recover. In addition to these traumatic physical and psychological effects, he also faced difficulties in accepting his discharge as a result of the injury, and like many veterans, he began to suffer from a deepening depression. After consulting with a doctor, he was advised to drink coffee which can act as a natural antidepressant.
With this advice, DeFranco began to heal.
He found a routine in venturing to coffee shops around Haverhill where he still lives with his wife, Dana. Engaging with fellow patrons and sampling different coffee drinks provided him with variety and interaction.
The idea for Battle Grounds Coffee, DeFranco’s business, stemmed from these experiences. Fueled by his desire to serve and give back to his community, he and Dana started this coffee company. From offering various speciality brew with creative names (including Black Ops, Khaki, and Treason) to operating a brick-and-mortar cafe, DeFranco sought to provide a space that could “bridge the gap” between members of the community and veterans.
Since its inception, Battle Grounds Coffee has become a popular spot for veterans to spend their time, and DeFranco is also a strong proponent of providing job opportunities for veterans. Additionally, Battle Grounds Coffee hosts a number of community events throughout the year including trivia nights, spoken-word performances, and veterans’ seminars.
Though DeFranco’s injury prevented him from returning to active duty, he was able to find a way through his traumatic experience and build a business designed to provide for the community. DeFranco strives to make the cafe a space for everyone, and he encourages intelligent conversation amongst all patrons. The military motifs used in the name of the business, the coffee flavors, and the overall atmosphere serve as an homage to DeFranco’s devotion to the military. He aspires to share his respect for fellow veterans while providing a valuable service to those in his community.