How often do you drive by the same places without ever stopping to check them out? Today, I visited a little café on a familiar street corner near Pittsburgh for the first time. The place is called “Cafe Tu y Yo” and it is a family-owned business that sells Latin American coffee, pastries, and food. My first impression of the cafe is just how tiny and unassuming it is. They only serve one type of drip coffee at a time (today’s variety is Columbian) and they have a little handwritten menu on chalkboard on a colored wall. Spanish-language hits including “Despacito” and others play from a radio on repeat.
The woman behind the counter was eager to greet us and take our order. She informed us that the cafe was only 10 weeks old and that she had opened the place with her daughter. We ordered coffee, tea and a few food items. Everything was served to us on disposable paper plates with matching cups. I got an alfajor, which is two sugar cookies covered in powdered sugar with caramel in between. I was very excited to see this item on the menu as it became a staple of my diet when I visited Argentina. This was my first alfajor in years, however, it cannot hold a candle to the pastries that they make in Buenos Aires. My boyfriend ordered a pupusa with cheese. Pupusas are thick corn flour pastries with different fillings. Again, while the anticipation was high for this dish, the reality was good, but not great. Regardless, our experience was quite good, especially considering that the food was inexpensive.
I am familiar with this area and remember that the Three Little Birds Cafe & Juice Bar used to occupy the spot where Cafe Tu y Yo now sits. I must say, as cute as this little café is, I really do worry about its future. The Three Little Birds served a variety of juices and had the same family-owned café feel without pretense. The Three Little Birds did not last too long (maybe only a few years). Today, Cafe Tu y Yo was deserted when my boyfriend and I arrived. How can a little place like Café Tu y Yo survive in a somewhat remote location?
I was thinking about this question and I feel that it is near impossible to run a small café on this particular street corner without aggressive marketing. The café is located on the side of the road at a “drive by” location. The small plaza it sits on does not turn heads and the café sign does little to catch a driver’s eye. I don’t want to sound negative, but I am skeptical about Café Tu y Yo’s future survival. This little street corner is a location for big dreams and harsh realities. In fact, a number of family-owned businesses have started and ended right there. I appreciate the fact that a cute little place like the Café Tu y Yo exists – how many other Latin American cafes can one find in Southwestern Pennsylvania?
I think this café needs a little help. I’m sure there is a big audience for a Latin American café, yet I don’t think the message is out about it yet. Café Tu y Yo could be a hub for local Spanish tutors who would like to take an immersive trip with their pupils. I’m sure the local school district would consider catering from Café Tu y Yo for an end-of-the-year Spanish class fiesta. At the time of this writing, the café only has the smallest internet presence—a barebones website and nothing more.
I’m glad I went to visit the café today. It is a reminder to me that if you enjoy something, appreciate it and show your appreciation. Small, family-owned businesses depend on the support of the entire community. If you like someplace, tell your friends and return; your support is invaluable. You can do so much, Dear Reader, why not try someplace new, you never quite know what you’re going to find.