Home Coffee making Lil Coffea Shop will open a second store in Denver filled with coffee and community

Lil Coffea Shop will open a second store in Denver filled with coffee and community


In 2019, after serving more than a year and a half of a six-year prison sentence for drug-related charges, Robert “Bobby” Yoakum found himself working at a Jiffy Lube. When he landed the oil change gig, he was surprised. Bobby wasn’t familiar with the word “oil dipstick,” let alone how to use it. That’s because a lot of Bobby’s time has been spent at Simeran Baidwan’s Little India, the restaurant and bar where he first served as a waiter and later as operations manager until 2013. Unfortunately, Bobby’s life Bobby took a turn for the worse in 2014 when drugs and the wrong crowd altered his trajectory.

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One day when Baidwan saw Bobby on his way to work at Jiffy Lube, he stopped to say hello. The two had always had a strong bond and Baidwan was admittedly heartbroken when he learned of Bobby’s mistakes and misfortune. However, soon after that fateful encounter between Baidwan and Bobby, the two became business partners, completely transforming Bobby’s life and outlook. Today, Baidwan and Bobby own several restaurants together, including the two Lil Coffea Shops (the second will be available soon) where the duo helps and employs at-risk youth.

And now Denver caught up with Yoakum to talk about his past, present, and the future of Lil Coffea Shop:

WND: When will the new Lil Coffee Shop open?

Yoakum: We therefore opened our first location on October 7, 2021 and are preparing to close the next one very soon. The lawyers just called and said everything was ready, so we’re ready to get the ball rolling.

I went there every day to meet the team because we keep the original staff from Keith’s Coffee Bar. They’ve all been there for years, so it was very important that I go there and meet them and talk to them. It’s a great team there. The current owner [Keith] has been there for 13 years; he’s just a great guy. You know what’s funny? Before I even opened the first Lil Coffea Shop, I had a vision board at home and wrote “Lil Coffea Shop #2” on it with Keith’s address next to it.

WND: Can you tell us the story behind the name?

Yoakum: When I was putting everything together, I wanted to combine ‘coffee’ and ‘tea’ because one of our best selling items at Little India is our Thai tea. But after some research I found out that Coffea is actually a coffee tree – that’s why I have the mural on the wall [depicting] the coffee factory.

WND: What was the experience of being a co-owner of a business for you?

Yoakum: It’s really exhilarating. You know, my partner Simeran was my boss for a long time and we have such a great bond. Honestly, I couldn’t have picked a better person to be in this with. He is like a brother to me. We just do amazing things together; in less than two years, we have opened four businesses, [two additional Little India locations and two Lil Coffea Shop locations].

WND: How, if at all, will this second location be different from the original store?

Yoakum: This incoming shop will be much bigger and I would like to set up open mic nights, poetry slams and other exciting community events.

WND: What’s your drink and food combo at Lil Coffea Shop?

Yoakum: Definitely The Chronic Toast, which is an avocado toast made with freshly made mashed avocado, arugula, sprouts, feta cheese, honey balsamic vinegar, and cherry tomatoes. I would pair it with our Lavender Matcha.

WND: Have you ever seen yourself here?

Yoakum: Not really. I had a very young child and dropped out of high school. It’s funny, you know, when I was 19, I was a barista at the first Lil Coffea Shop; it was a Starbucks back then. I started working at Little India in 2005 and did very well. At the beginning, I was a waiter then I became director of operations. I left in 2014 when I started going through all my difficulties. It’s crazy, while I was in prison I dreamed of the restaurant and Simeran and being in the weeds during a busy shift [laughs].

[What I looked forward to most though] reconnected with all the people I had pushed away when I got caught up in the drug game. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do when I got out, but I knew I was going to do something.

Lil Coffea Shop is my first business, and I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be making money for a while, but that’s totally fine with me because now I have this platform where I run a few restaurants and I can help them children who are in similar situations to mine. For me, connecting with them and letting them know that there is light at the end of the tunnel has been the most rewarding experience and that’s what I want to keep doing because it makes me feel good. It feels good to be someone they can look up to, and it feels good to be the voice for some of them. We help a lot of young trans people who don’t necessarily have a voice and, you know, some of them have even been kicked out of their homes because they were trans. Now I have this place – this community of people – where it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are or where you come from.