Kristin Lacy and Vivi Lemus invite you to their Convivio – a gathering where people gather around a crowded table, share stories, and connect over delicious food and drink, which is exactly what they hope their new cafe brings to West Denver. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, CafÃ© Convivio, located in a space shared with the Honduran restaurant Enigma art bar at 4923 West 38th Avenue, is scheduled to open in Spring 2022.
Lacy and Lemus met in 2015 at Revision, a local non-profit organization focused on food insecurity issues in the Westwood neighborhood. Both worked in programming; it was Lacy’s first job upon returning to the United States after three years living and working abroad in Guatemala. “I felt lonely and I missed my life [in Guatemala]”Lacy recalls.” I heard [Lemus’s] accent when she walked through the door, and we fell in love talking about food, coffee and culture and the welcoming and warm nature around cafecito. ”
Lemus explains that there is a cultural difference between the Guatemalan âcafÃ©citoâ tradition and the American coffee experience. For many Latinos, inviting a friend to cafecito really means “let’s go sit down together.” There’s no time limit, and coffee isn’t even necessarily involved. She adds that sometimes cafes have an exclusive, often intimidating vibe, especially if English isn’t your first language: âNot knowing how to pronounce things or what they mean, you kind of have to be an expert. . ”
“[Denver has] so many immigrants who come from the same countries where the best coffee in the world comes from, âsays Lacy, but they are often not represented in the cafes that serve the coffee itself. Convivio hopes to change that.
After meeting, Lacy and Lemus spent several years running cross-cultural cooking classes, but all the while, Lacy – who not only worked on the farming side of coffee, but also held a job at a cafÃ©. – dreamed of opening a bilingual cafÃ©. .
In September 2020, the duo took that dream one step further by launching online coffee sales, followed by pop-ups at farmers’ markets. They have partnered with two companies, Gento and Vega, to source roasted coffee by farmers, which helps to break down the disconnection between coffee producers and the countries that consume the product, and allows them to keep a large portion of the profits in the communities from which the coffee is sourced. grains. They also sold products from Love and tea, a cooperative run by women from the highlands of Guatemala who grow, dry and blend all herbs, flowers and teas.
Both online and in-person sales received positive feedback from the community, but their focus was always on opening a physical location. Their vision of creating a âthird placeâ outside of work and home that would be an inclusive space for community building inspired all aspects of the creation of the cafÃ©.
True to their community goal, the duo chose to use Mainvest as a fundraising platform compared to GoFundMe or take out a traditional loan. âIt’s democratizing investing for ordinary people,â says Lacy. âIt gives people the power to fund the kinds of businesses you want to see on your main streetâ¦ so people who care about causes like immigration feel like, ‘I can be a part of this. I don’t need a million dollars [to invest]. ‘”
The crowdfunding campaign, which launched on November 1, hit its minimum goal of $ 50,000 a month later, and the maximum goal of $ 65,000 on December 8, well ahead of the December 23 deadline. Lemus attributes their success to the relationships they have built over the years working in nonprofit organizations and their involvement in the Latinx community. “People resonate with what we have,” she notes.
Their future menu features flavors rooted in Central America, like coffee infused with cardamom, horchata, and choco-canela (cinnamon chocolate) lattes destined to transport you to an abuela house. Small bites will include a rotating selection of antojitos (Guatemalan street food like enchiladas and tostadas), pasteles (pastries) like alfajores (a dulce de leche confectionery), and postres (desserts) like champurradas (biscuits au coffee) and ponche (dried fruit) and spices) scones. Ultimately, their goal is to feature dishes from other Latinx chefs as well.
Lacy and Lemus are currently employed full time in nonprofit organizations in addition to working at CafÃ© – Lemus in Cuisine of the Valley of the Sun using her culinary skills and Lacy in the evaluation of the program. But the success of the crowdfunding campaign means they’ll soon be able to focus full-time on Convivio.
Even if you missed your chance to enter the ground floor by investing, you can still support Convivio by online shopping. Although this year’s holiday markets have passed, cajas for celebrar (gift boxes) are available for local delivery throughout the season. You can also follow Convivio CafÃ© on Instagram for information on upcoming in-person events.