HUMBOLDT PARK — When Liset Adkins was growing up, everyone in her family would have coffee and Guatemalan sweet bread after dinners.
But outside of Adkins’ home in Humboldt Park, quality coffee was difficult to find. There were no independent coffee shops — just chains, she said.
Several years later, Adkins and her husband, Anton Adkins, are out to change that. The duo recently opened their own shop, Café Calidá at 3455 W. North Ave. The name is a nod to Liset Adkins’ Guatemalan roots: “calidá” is slang for “quality” in Spanish.
The coffee shop, which took over co-working spot Homiey’s old space, debuted over the weekend with coffee from Passion House Coffee Roasters and JoeBVegan donuts.
“A lot of people in the neighborhood who have stopped by said, ‘We have nothing like this. We’re so excited we can walk around the corner to a coffee shop,'” Liset Adkins said.
In what has become a trend across the country, Liset and Anton Adkins decided to take the leap and open their own business after the pandemic hit.
In August 2020, Anton Adkins lost his job as athletic coordinator at Garfield Park nonprofit Breakthrough Urban Ministries, a gig he had held for less than two years. Liset Adkins was a stay-at-home mom.
Opening a coffee shop felt like the natural next step, they said.
“My wife is … a super coffee lover. Since we got together nine years ago, she’s definitely brought me along,” Anton Adkins said. “It felt like the time was right … we thought to put two things together: drinking coffee and being with people.”
Liset Adkins said she was nervous at first, especially because she’s “the type of person who likes structure.” But then they met Antoine and Arianna Scott, husband-and-wife owners of Atmos Coffee Shop, also in Humboldt Park, who gave them valuable advice and guidance.
“We just reached out to them, not knowing each other at all … and they were so receptive, so welcoming,” Anton Adkins said. “We’ve been so appreciative of their tutelage, their help.”
Since September, Liset and Anton Adkins have been hard at work transforming the 1,700-square-foot space into a bright neighborhood coffee shop, pouring all of their savings and a personal loan into the business.
The cafe is “truly mom-and-pop,” only made possible by ongoing help from family members and friends, Anton Adkins said. Take the shop’s countertop, for example.
“My brother-in-law found two pieces of wood, my wife took the weekend to sand and seal it, we learned how to put it in place. It was truly an all-hands-on-deck effort,” Anton Adkins said.
Right now, the walls are bare, but as the two get their footing, they plan to hang art with personal significance — “pieces that really speak to us,” Liset Adkins said.
Like the coffee shop’s design, the husband-and-wife team are keeping Café Calidá’s menu simple yet flexible. On the menu is an array of traditional drinks, including cafe con leche, chai lattes and matcha. Because they’re working with a local coffee and tea distributor, the owners plan to rotate partnerships with roasters. Right now, they’re serving Passion House coffee.
The plan is to serve Metric Coffee when the cold brew machine arrives, they said.
“The beautiful thing about [using a distributor] is we can offer both and there’s no issue,” Liset Adkins said.
Liset Adkins’ love of coffee is what inspired Café Calidá’, but she and her husband hope the business will be much more than just a place for coffee lovers. Next month, a young community orchestra is using the space for its spring concert. The two hope to host all manner of events in the future, from baby showers and birthday parties to open mics.
Anton Adkins, who is from North Lawndale, said he hopes to inspire young Black men and boys to open their own businesses. When he told the kids he used to work with at Breakthrough Urban Ministries about Café Calidá, their response was overwhelming, he said.
“They’ve never known anyone to [open a coffee shop]. They know Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. To know someone personally who was going through the journey, it meant a lot to them. A huge part [of this] is the educational side. Now that we’ve gone through it, we can help others, too,” he said.
Café Calidá is open 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
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