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Exploring Life & Business with Elisa Hoyos & Leo Abularach of Picaresca Coffee

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elisa Hoyos & Leo Abularach.

Hi Elisa & Leo, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
We opened our cafe doors in March 2021, mid-pandemic. Often we get told that opening a new business during a pandemic was a risky move. Oddly, it didn’t feel that way at the time, we surprisingly felt ready. We are Leo and Elisa, the owners of Picaresca Barra de Cafe, a small specialty coffee shop located in the heart of Boyle Heights. At the start of the pandemic, I (Elisa) found myself out of a job and we had to sit down and quickly take a look at our finances. Luckily, Leo was able to continue working as a barista and coffee roaster and we were able to cover our bills. With the uncertainty of the economy and everything being shut down, we found ourselves in a very unique position. We suddenly had all this time to work on the concept of our business. The name, branding, logo and menu. Then came our stimulus money. We didn’t touch any of it. We put it all in our savings and once we were able to see the numbers, it became a game, how much could we save. As soon as I was able to find another job as a barista, we continued saving. The more we saved, the more motivated we became to keep pushing toward our goals.

Our original plan was to buy a coffee trailer and have a mobile espresso bar. It seemed like the logical idea because at that point, the fate of the economy was so uncertain. We could either use it to continue selling coffee in the farmers market and pop up at different locations or do events when things started opening up again. So we planned and continued saving for a trailer and even went as far as getting blueprints drawn up. Then one evening, we decided to take a walk around our community and noticed how many businesses had closed down and how many locations were for sale or for lease. Out of curiosity, Leo started looking around to see what some of these locations were going for and that’s how we found our space. It was an ad on Craigslist. It was a tiny juice bar that was already permitted with sinks and drains so all we needed to do was paint and plug in our equipment. Another plus was, it was located in our community of Boyle Heights, which was really important to us, and the location is pretty unique as well. We are located inside of a mini mall, sandwiched between a hair salon, tailor, florist and mini mart.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
There have definitely been challenges since we opened. Like most small businesses, we don’t have a lot of funds so we do everything ourselves. We work the shop everyday, do all the marketing, bookkeeping, inventory, events, Leo roasts the coffee we sell, so at times it can be a bit overwhelming. And since we are still in the early stages of our business, we have our good days and bad days. That’s why we make it a point to collaborate with other small businesses. We host food pop ups at least once or twice a month. Our good friends from “La Novia”, who are chefs that specialize in Mexican Modern cuisine, come once a month and create a special menu for Saturday brunch. We also have a Chile Relleno burrito and a Vegan Chile Relleno burrito by “Pinch Foods” on our daily menu. Another obstacle we face is we are hidden inside the mall, so it’s been a challenge bringing people into our shop. It’s not always easy to find our location.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
We are a shop that aims to serve quality coffee and blend our Latino community with coffee culture. We source and roast our own beans and take pride in the relationships we’ve built with our producers so far. We are always looking for ways to expand our sourcing connections. A core value of ours is to maintain a connection with our community. This is reflected in the drinks on our menu. Our most popular drink is our Cafe de Olla latte, which is our take on the traditional Mexican coffee drink. We also have El Pino latte, a pine flavored drink with a blend of rosemary and spices. This drink is a nod to the infamous pine tree in Boyle Heights, dubbed “El Pino.”

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Opening a business is always a risk, especially with the uncertainties of our current economy and the lasting effects of the pandemic. Opening the doors to our little cafe did not guarantee that people would walk in and support our business. Financially, we are in the hands of the customers we get to serve every day. Every single sale makes a big impact on our finances right now. On the other hand, taking the risk of opening a coffee shop; in the middle of the pandemic, in the middle of a mini-mall, where the community is not used to supporting a business like ours, didn’t feel like a big risk because we didn’t have much to gamble. We weren’t walking away from high-paying jobs, we already worked in the service industry, surviving off the generosity of the customers we served. We didn’t have a mortgage to pay and don’t have any kids that depend on our decisions. More than anything, it felt like the right decision for us to make and so far, we have no regrets.

Pricing:

  • Coffee 2.5 – 3.00
  • Coffee Bags 16.00 – 20.00
  • Lattes 4.50 – 5.50

Contact Info:

  • Email: picaresca.cafe@gmail.com
  • Website: barrapicaresca.com
  • Instagram: @picaresca.cafe
  • Facebook: picaresca barra de cafe

Image Credits
Sonia Hernandez, @_soniahernandez_

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