After two and a half years in New Center and 10 years serving coffee in Detroit, Cafe con Leche will close its doors on Saturday. Owners Jordi Carbonell and wife Melissa Fernandez launched the shop in December 2014 on Grand Boulevard across the street from the Fischer Building, with hopes that area residents, workers, and students as well as riders of the Q-Line would find their way into the shop.
However, now just weeks away from the launch of the rail system, Carbonell tells the Detroit News that high operating costs and increased competition from other incoming cafes has forced him to give up the space. Fernandez adds that minority businesses may also be at a disadvantage in competing against incoming businesses:
If these new wave (of) businesses won’t ... allow us to participate as suppliers, vendors to their businesses, then we can’t compete and remain part of the texture of Detroit.
Carbonell and Fernandez plan to refocus their energy on the roasting portion of the business. The Calavera Coffee brand is currently available in restaurants and grocery stores across Detroit and the owners are purchasing a facility on Michigan Avenue to house that operation.
Cafe con Leche first launched on Bagley in Southwest Detroit in 2007. It later moved to a shop across the street from Clark Park where it grew to be a neighborhood staple before expanding to a second location in New Center. The Clark Park location shuttered in March 2016, when the shop was unable to work out the terms of a new lease with its landlord.
While coffee bars such as Stella Good Coffee continue to operate nearby in New Center, one can’t help but feel like Detroit has lost something significant with the closure of Cafe con Leche. The Mexican mochas will be missed, but the cafe was beloved as one of those rare spots that seemed to truly thrive on community.
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