Ollama Isn’t really Just A Coffee Store. It is A Legacy Of Mexican Lifestyle On A Shifting Southwest Boulevard | KCUR 89.3

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In a new coffee shop on Southwest Boulevard — concerning a cluster of Mexican places to eat to the west and the Crossroads to the east — Lesley Reyes serves café de olla the previous-fashioned way.

Café de olla is espresso steeped with cinnamon, star anise and piloncillo, a difficult brown cone of refined cane sugar that melts down into syrupy sweetness. This fashion of espresso is a early morning custom among grandmothers in rural Mexico.

It truly is also the dwelling specialty at Café Ollama.

When Reyes and her spouse begun fantasizing about opening a espresso shop in Kansas Metropolis, they have been youthful industry experts transferring metropolis to town: Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix. They harbored mixed emotions about moving again to Kansas City, the place Reyes claims Latino society feels “hidden.”

As well as, how would they ever juggle a coffee shop with their present careers — Reyes as a make-up artist, and her partner as a soccer coach?

The coffee shop alone was no guaranteed detail, but a person issue was firmly determined.

“We were being likely to make some bomb café de olla,” Reyes tells me with a chortle, pointing an index finger to the table in front of her. “Like, true to how it’s meant to style. And we ended up likely to get the piloncillo in Mexico. Straight off the bat.”

They opened Café Ollama in March, and café de olla is the 1st consume on their shorter menu. It transports Reyes’ prospects to a common area — even if coffee just isn’t how they’d planned to get there.

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The identify Ollama refers to a Mesoamerican activity. Reyes suggests i’s a nod to indigenous lifestyle, cafe de olla, and her husband’s appreciate of soccer.

This storefront formerly functioned as a terminal for El Conejo, a bus line that traveled one particular route: Kansas City to Mexico, Mexico to Kansas Town.

El Conejo shut down with the border, at the commence of the pandemic, and Reyes and her husband moved dwelling all over the exact same time. Makeup artists and soccer coaches couldn’t uncover a great deal perform below lockdown, so the few started rehabbing the now-unused space just about right away.

They scraped paint off the significant photo window. They tore up a grimy old ground. But they didn’t contact the counter wherever El Conejo experienced sold tickets because 2016 (ahead of that, the ticket counter and ready space were situated just a pair doors down).

“When we initially opened, there were a large amount of customers that would come in continue to looking for El Conejo,” Reyes states. “They would surprise, ‘What was this? Like, what is heading on in here?'”

Reyes let wayward travelers know that, even though she could not get them to Mexico, she could get them a cup of café de olla. She received a good deal of doubtful looks in return.

“Pretty much like they don’t believe you,” Reyes points out. “Then they try out it and they’re like, ‘Oh s–––. They do have café de olla.'”


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Irma Hernandez stands in the entryway of Ollama, gazing at the spot where her rented desk once sat.

The espresso carries historical past and indicating. So does this making — which belongs to Reyes’ mother, Irma Hernandez.

Hernandez came to the United States from Mexico at 14, the third little one in a relatives of seven. Her older siblings went to significant faculty collectively. Her youthful siblings went to quality college together. But Hernandez went to center university by yourself.

She received straight Fs on her initial report card simply because no person recognized the silent new lady in the class didn’t understand a phrase of English. The principal only identified out when he known as Hernandez into his office environment to examine her effectiveness.

“I enhanced,” she states. “But for a few months I would go to faculty with a headache, seeking to vomit, my tummy would hurt, contemplating, ‘Here I go again.'”

Hernandez experienced young children and lifted them in the 1990s, supporting herself and her two daughters primarily on her own. Mondays by way of Fridays, she held down comprehensive-time jobs, then put in her weekends presenting tax and notary solutions on the side.

For that, Hernandez required a position to meet up with with clientele. “I could not manage to fork out month to month expenses to lease an place of work place,” she remembers.

Then she found a desk in the corner of a minor record store — ideal the place Café Ollama stands now, and El Conejo in advance of it. Hernandez and her daughters visited the keep a large amount she says it was the only area in Kansas Metropolis to invest in CDs and tapes in Spanish.

“I asked, I mentioned, ‘Would you be eager to lease me that corner appropriate there with the desk and the chair, each individual weekend?'”

The music shop’s house owners, a married couple from Mexico by way of Texas, easily agreed. Their only stipulation: no laptop or computer. It would send out electric power payments soaring.


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Irma Hernandez holds court in her daughter’s new espresso store. The artwork masking the partitions has all been gifted by family members and buddies.

Camped out in the file retailer during the early 2000s, Hernandez turned not just a dependable tax preparer, but an easy-to-uncover helper for immigrants in Kansas City’s Mexican neighborhood.

She took folks to doctors’ appointments. She translated paperwork. What ever men and women requested of her, if she could do it, she reported certainly. Even even though some of the requests admittedly stumped her.

“They are always contacting me for anything,” says Hernandez, with evident passion. “‘Do you do divorces?’ No, I you should not divorce individuals. ‘Do you do wills?’ No, I’m not an legal professional.”

In 2010, the wife who owned the record shop started seeking to sell. Her partner experienced died, and operating the store on your own became depressing. She obtained features for the developing from potential purchasers, but she already realized just who she preferred to have it: Irma Hernandez.

“I stated, ‘But how am I likely to?'” Hernandez remembers. “She goes, ‘I never know, I will not treatment, but you will maintain it.’ I explained, ‘Well, if we appear to an agreement.’ So we did and that very little corner turned into this building.”

Now, Hernandez reveals up at the constructing on the lookout regal: entirely made up, significant heels, breezy dresses. With “real estate agent” included to her checklist of work titles, she however keeps an office environment behind the café.

I inquire Hernandez how it feels to see her daughter managing a espresso store in her constructing, a spot the place she the moment experienced a solitary desk. A rented desk, at that. She begins to cry.

“I had been operating so substantially that I failed to understand what I experienced. I seriously did not,” Hernandez claims. “Generally 3, four careers, I do not know what a weekend is for so several decades. Like 5 many years in the past it hit me. I was like, ‘Wow. Wow.'”

“I’m really very pleased of my daughter,” she provides.


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Lesley Reyes at perform powering the counter.

Developing up, Lesley Reyes didn’t give a great deal believed to this block, or the neighborhoods surrounding it.

“The West Aspect was just a Latino neighborhood,” Reyes claims with a shrug. “Back again then, like it was pretty much kind of—” she stops brief. “There was almost nothing down right here.”

Which is altered drastically.

“The full West Aspect neighborhood, it is really a gorgeous community. I like it. But now it is really just about like unachievable to dwell there,” Reyes suggests. “It is a outrageous thing. I want to be for improve and for enhancement, but then it truly is just about like, at what price tag?”

Just west of Ollama, very long-established Mexican eating places dot the Boulevard, but the stylish new shops transferring in close by present very little evidence of the community that defined this neighborhood. Positive, you can however get tacos and margaritas. But you can also uncover luxurious pajamas and French crepes and artisanal grilled cheese. For a cost, you can own a modern modern day house overlooking the city.

A new business with a distinctly modern day look and sense, 1 that obviously speaks for and to a new era, and that is also proudly Mexican? That helps make a statement right here.

“We were not hunting to conform to any individual,” Reyes says. She cites the café de olla as an example. “A lot of people reported, like, ‘Oh, this is as well sweet’ or not sweet more than enough or whichever, but we still have not improved the recipe. That is how you drink it. Which is how it truly is produced.”


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Aside from the paper to-go cup, every little thing about this cafe de olla is traditional, states Lesley Reyes.

When you action inside of Ollama, you can expect to listen to tunes sung in Spanish. You can take pleasure in espresso desk books depicting perform by fashionable and modern day Mexican women artists, and telling the tales of historic Mexican revolutionaries. You can buy an earthen mug, the sort café de olla would traditionally be served in.

You can almost come to feel the presence of every single passenger who acquired a ticket to Mexico in this creating, and sat ready for their bus to pull up.

Reyes is not just marketing coffee. She’s building certain her culture isn’t concealed in Kansas City, on a road where by she knows it belongs.