A love for cooking and the absence of fresh coffee in his morning routine drove Jose Marin to fill a vacant storefront with a new cafe.
"I got tired of the pre-made coffee," he said. "You need people to see a nice atmosphere."
Marin, an Atlantic City resident who also owns La Cosecha, a supermarket on South Main Street, is part of a small but vital contingent of Hispanic business owners in the Pleasantville area.
According to U.S. Census statistics, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in Atlantic County increased 17 percent between 2002 and 2007. More recent figures are not yet available.
Marin said he is not catering only to the Hispanic population, though the group makes up 40 percent of the city's population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and about 20 percent of the population of Atlantic County.
The goal, he said, is to offer the best coffee and food in the area.
Coffee from Honduras, Brazil and Columbia, Marin's home country, will be offered at the Mambo Cafe, which is set to open Feb. 28, Marin said. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant and coffee shop was even announced in Mayor Jesse Tweedle's state of the city address at the beginning of the month.
"This project will create 10 to15 construction jobs and 15 to 20 new jobs in our city," Tweedle said.
Noel Galindo, of Pleasantville, is excited about the Columbian coffee. "I hear it's the best," he said.
Mark Becker, co-owner of Barista's Coffee House in Galloway Township, said good coffee is a nice finishing touch to any meal, and is definitely lacking in availability in the region. But there are differences in coffee preparation that have nothing to do with packaged ground or freshly ground beans.
"The worst thing that happened to coffee was the percolator," Becker said.
Coffee in Hispanic countries is prepared in a way that reduces the caffeine content and serves as more of a casual drink.
"They can drink it any time of the day," Noel Galindo said. It is not seen as a source of caffeine, but rather a drink to enjoy after a meal or to keep you warm, he said.
Becker agreed, saying coffee is a social drink. "Deals have been made over coffee," he said.
But the espresso drinks in specialty coffee houses are different from the Latin-blends prepared in Hispanic homes.
"There are no chemicals," said Galindo's wife, Sonia.
Many Hispanic children drink coffee freely in their home countries, Noel Galindo said.
The reason is in the way it is prepared, Sonia Galindo said. It's not just a different type of bean, it is also how it is roasted and ground.
Becker said there is a lack of independent and specialty coffee houses in the region, and many have come and gone.
His location on Jimmie Leeds Road, which opened in 2008, has a loyal customer base of students and professionals from Stockton College and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center's Mainland Campus.
In addition to coffee, Marin said, his cafe will offer traditional American food and favorites from Hispanic countries.
It's a chance to get home-cooked food without having to put in all the hard work, he said.
Pupusa, a favorite in El Salvador, as well as a Puerto Rican favorite called mofongo will be served, he said. "People have already asked me if I will be serving mofongo."
The announcement is certain to strum up competition across the street, as the Purto Rican restaurant New Yorican claims to be "la casa del mofongo" or "the house of mofongo."
Becker agreed that the exposure to good coffee will create a new appreciation for the beverage.
"People will learn what good coffee is," he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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