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Past, present and future: Welcome to our new Convivio Café space in Denver

Back in 2015, Vivi and I met at a grassroots non-profit - Re:Vision (amazing, check them out if you haven't heard the good news). I was managing food security programs there, after just moving back to the States after three years in Guatemala, and I was on the search for Latina volunteer chefs in the community. Vivi walked in and instantly I heard the chapinismos (Guatemalan talk) I had grown to adore - and can sometimes be hard to find in Metro Denver where most Latinos come from Northern Mexico.


I cried out - ¡vos! ¡tenemos que hacer comida guatemalteca!


We instantly bonded over our love for all things culturally-rooted food, the joy of gathering people, and most importantly for Guatemalan hospitality.


After many fiestas full of friends, neighbors, messy tortilla making and lots of hilarious spanglish, we thought - we need a place like this in Denver. We planted the seed of a Guatemalan-inspired community café where we can gather and celebrate all the multicultural, bilingual joy of our City.


Since those days, we've both worked a number of jobs in food, community development, farming, immigrant rights, coffee..... Not to mention a pandemic, a graduating child, buying a house, and a cross-country treks or two. Y bueno, last year smack dab in the middle of pandemic pandemania when we both lost parts of our jobs, we decided there was no better time than NOW to pursue our dreams.


A quick run down of some mountains we've climbed since then:

We're not too excited or anything...
  • registered our business with the State of Colorado (and popped a bottle of bubbly)

  • designed and launched a website with an online store

  • established partnerships with the two biggest names in farmer-roasted coffee direct from origin and with a Mayan women-owned coop for tea,

  • started slingin' coffee in every farmers market we could manage over the summer

  • developed unique, traditional Guatemalan pastry recipes

  • and just celebrated our one year anniversary in September with by surpassing $25,000 in sales since we began.

All while managing our full time day jobs on the side.... it's a good thing we work in caffeine!

 

When we started dreaming this up, one of our biggest motivations was the joy and value we have seen first hand that comes when people of different cultures bump into each other - literally and figuratively. And we saw this in each other - Vivi, born in Guatemala and being so welcomed in this community as an immigrant; me, Kristin, an American living in Guatemala for 3 years and being so warmly welcomed in that community.


Our logo exemplifies this concept beautifully - an arch, an entryway welcoming different cultures from both sides. Walk through, and you just might find yourself sharing and eating and laughing and celebrating in a whole new way.


Perhaps now more than ever, we need spaces like this in our communities.

Arco de Santa Catalina, the inspiration for Convivio Café's logo.
 

Based on all that history, we wanted to be in Southwest Denver where it all began. This is where I live. This is where we met. I love my neighbors. I see so many opportunities for more and better connection across cultures in my community.


So we dove in as best we could to become real estate experts and find a sweet little community spot to host our café. We took a lot of risks - as many as we could as a new business. Along the way, we learned a few hard lessons. First, the market is risky. I hate to say it, buts it true. Investors and lenders are skeptical a coffee shop will work in lower-income neighborhoods and where surrounding buildings aren't in the best shape. Second, the space we wanted was more expensive than other, more built-up neighborhoods. I'm not sure why, to be honest, but I can tell you the rents are high compared to other neighborhoods, from our experience. Third, on top of higher rent, the space was in pretty rough condition and needed significant renovation to make the warm, welcoming place we wanted. More money we didn't have.


At the end of the day, after hundreds of hours running numbers, numerous negotiations with local partners, and spending some of the first precious thousand dollars we had invested into the business on design for a space, we just couldn't make it work. As a new, women-owned business built on our collective passion and work ethic (unfortunately not built on a 'rich uncle's' capital), the space in SW Denver was just not a good financial decision for us.


I know. But wait, it gets better.

 

Literally the same day we sat down with our landlord to tell him we couldn't make it work, our friend Edwin called us up with another opportunity - the roller coaster and fanciful fate of business ownership, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.


We met Edwin at the very same place we met each other 6 years ago, at Re:Vision, cooking and spanglish-ing and gathering folks. He's a Honduran chef and general badass growing his incredible Xatrucho Concepts. And he just happens to be cooking in a space that was looking to rent out the other half of the building to another community-minded, values-aligned business. A coffee shop maybe, they thought.


So here we are in 2021, and we've signed a lease to share a space with Enigma Bazaar and Xatrucho Concepts at 38th and Sheridan. A few photos of the beautiful space below, to pique your interest.


And a swift review of the benefits, just to let you in on the "why" behind this decision

  • Shared spaces means shared resources! Co-marketing/co-promotion means rising tide raises all ships; rent/utilities/operations cut in a third; and here we come with collaborative events combining all our strengths!

  • Its already built out! The historical building is incredible, and would you believe it has arches already built into it? (hinting back to our logo)

  • Community-minded means living out our values! These guys vibe with us on all things community and diversity and the bringing together of people. We're down.

  • A Central American Gathering space! Most of all, with Edwin and Xatrucho by our side (literally, on the other side of the building), we're creating a one-of-a-kind Central American gathering space in Denver

Our mission has always been clear - to be a good neighbors, locally and globally. We want to see crowded tables full of culturally-rooted food and drink, rich conversation among diverse people, and no doubt in anyone's mind that all are welcome here - in other words, a convivio .

For Central Americans, you will feel nostalgia and home and los aromas de la casa de tu abuela. You'll have representation in this City in a new way. For those not from Central America, you will be warmly welcomed into a new culture, a new space, with possibly new foods and new smells. You might have to order in a language you don't pronounce well, but we'll be there to help.


There are a million coffee shops in Denver, and I'm sure they all have a mission to gather people. But, at Convivio Café, we're asking gather who? Have you looked around the last time you went into a coffee shop ? Who did you see? Maybe this time you'll see something different.

 

So, here's to the future. We still have our long-term goal to find a home in Southwest Denver. We still believe our community needs and deserves it, and we have a pretty good product folks want. Convivio Café 2.0 anyone? For now, we can't wait to host you in Convivio Café at 4935 West 38th Avenue.



Want to help us get the doors open? We're running a crowd-investing campaign right now where you can invest in our neighborhood business (as little as $100) and get paid back through revenue sharing. Your investment grows as we grow, and we all get a café. Rather than paying interest to Wall Street, we provide returns to neighbors and family instead.


Become a community investor in our café. Your investment grows as we grow.

Adelante, to be the first women-owned, fully bilingual, Guate-inspired café in Denver.

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