The coffee shop: oh, what stories to tell! You could say it was it was my destiny, and that all the puzzle pieces fell into place and led me to it. In fact, I realize that everything I did before was preparing me for this venture.
The coffee shop began in 2011. I had been living away from the place I grew up for a long time. I said I would never return, but I came back to Monteverde to help my brother with a project. But that project fell through. So, I changed gears, and here I am.
I remember arriving in March and opening the coffee shop in July. Initially, I had planned to open a store. While outfitting the store, someone suggested I open a coffee shop and brought me a fascinating menu from Colombia. I followed this path, and my wonderful brother helped me with financial matters by authorizing one of our joint properties to be used as backing for a bank loan. Then, I sold what I could: my car, living room furniture, the TV, etc. I really couldn’t believe it, but the bank approved my loan! And my family and friends were extremely supportive.
As I started remodeling and equipping the coffee shop, someone close to me kept telling me that it wouldn’t be successful, that it wouldn’t offer anything unique in town. I wasn’t discouraged. I kept believing, “IT IS GOING TO WORK.”
We opened on July 15 without having any idea if we would break even. I had no clue how to launch a new business. There were two of us: me and a friend who had moved from San Jose and who helped me with baking and creating the menu.
I made drinks, cooked, washed, waitressed, etc. I was living in my cousin’s house in a very rainy area about 5km away (3 miles) from the coffee shop. On our opening day, we were packed. I had no change, we ran out of everything, our refrigerator wasn’t working properly, and the other refrigerators hadn’t arrived yet. We were afraid everything would go bad. But even so, we opened! I walked every day in my rubber boots to open at 6am, and at 8 pm I started walking home. I walked because using a taxi was too much of a luxury at that time. I needed to save to pay the bills, groceries, loans, and other debts.
On those walks home, I started stopping at a restaurant where the owners and I had become good friends. They have been in the business a very long time, are incredibly hard workers, and were my inspiration to never give up. It became routine to spend many evenings there after I closed. I have so many more anecdotes, I can mention so many people, and more. But overall, those times were very challenging. Sometimes I couldn’t pay the coffee shop electricity bill, and suddenly someone would foot the bill. Or, on any particular day the coffee shop would fill up, and we’d have enough to pay the bills. Many people didn’t understand my vision. I had to let some workers go, and others left on their own. During those time, I practically didn’t have any fingernails because of the constant dish washing. My family was always there to help. Some washed dishes, others bussed tables, etc. And then the time came when my friend needed to go back to San Jose. That hit hard, especially because I didn’t know how to make desserts. So, my friend taught me, and I hired someone to help wait tables, another kitchen staffer, and myself. I made desserts at 3am, opened at 7am, waited tables and cooked until 7pm, plus I did all the administrative tasks and often didn’t finish until 11pm. Some mornings, my 80+yr old mother would come in at 3 am to help. All of that was beautiful. And to top it all off, one of my brothers-in-law, my favorite and best in the world, just like a brother, sold me a car. We did some financial mishmash, and I had a 1980s Toyota Land Cruiser. It had so many holes that I had to use an umbrella inside the car to not get soaked. But at least I had a vehicle! Finally, I registered for a course in San José on Saturdays to improve my pastry making. I don’t know how I managed! I got up at 4am, drove to San Jose for the 8am class, cooked like crazy all day to bring the pastries back, then would go to PriceSmart to stock up on supplies until the car was full to the brim. I would arrive back in Monteverde around 11pm, then had to unload everything. On those first days after each course day, I had enough pastries to last a couple of days, so I’d spend those days in the kitchen or waiting tables. I learned a lot, took more courses, brought a terrific chef to train us further, and now I even have a pastry chef. I really don’t know how it all happened!
Today I have a cafeteria. Sometimes I don’t know how it all happened. And my approach to work is different now. I work with a team of trust and quality, with family and friends. Focus my responsibility on managing. And extremely important, I work on behalf of employees who depend of our incomes. You could say that I am crazy about all this, but looking back, I become nostalgic and amazed at what I could achieve, and I know I could never have done it alone. You must have confidence, have faith and a lot of strength. If someone were to ask me if they should take on a personal project like this, they can expect that I’ll tell them how challenging it is. But that’s life. I’ve sacrificed my personal life, friends and family, but here I am, and those who have stuck with me are still by my side. I can’t possibly tell all the stories or mention every name. I haven’t even mentioned all the happy times and wonderful, fun anecdotes. But I know this: without each and every one of you who have passed through the coffee shop, we wouldn’t be here. Always remember that life is full of emotions and realities, and the best thing is to do something that you enjoy. Ask yourself: if money were not an issue, what would I do? When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up? Don’t be afraid of being creative, because creative minds aren’t afraid to try, fail, reinvent, and succeed.