Walking into Mammitas Coffee, visitors are greeted by a cozy indoor porch area, a large fireplace, and a collection of small tables. Further in lies a large wooden coffee bar and thin fridge filled with soda bottles from Mexico. Mexican sweet bread rests in the bakery case.
“You have to dip it into the coffee,” owner Jacqueline Milian recommends. She drizzles her lattes with caramel or cinnamon, and then warmly instructs customers to taste the first sip in front of her.
Mammitas Coffee held its soft opening Jan. 20 at 224 S. Linn St. It began with a dream to open a flower and coffee shop; Milian’s parents had been florists in California for 25 years. The shop will officially open Saturday.
Milian said she had found the location and knew it was perfect, but wasn’t sure how she would afford the cost of opening up.
“We went home, and I was like, ‘Lord, this is a great opportunity,’ ” she said. “My mom comes upstairs, and she grabs my hand, and she puts something in my hand, and she goes, ‘Go open your business,’ and she walked away. And it was the exact amount that the lady had told me I needed to open up the place.”
Milian said she was still unsure at that point, worried about making the wrong decision for her family, until she received a message at a women’s conference in Cedar Rapids one morning.
“We finally got settled in and we sat down. And when I sat down, the lady preaching goes, ‘There’s a woman out in this audience,’ ” she said. “There’s women out in this conference, that you feel like God has chosen all of your friends around you, and everybody’s successful except you. You’ve been fearful of opening up a business,’ and she’s like, ‘God is telling you go open your business. I will go before you.’”
She decided then to take the leap. Friends and members of her church, Life Church in Coralville, helped her do everything from cleaning the space to donating time, food, and equipment for her shop. Her whole family was involved in the effort as well, from her son building her wooden counters to her daughter, who helps her open each morning before school, and her other daughter, Angelina Ortega, who runs Mammitas’ social-media accounts.
“It’s a labor of love,” she said. “I’m very blessed. I have no words for what everybody’s done for me and my family.”
Ortega said it’s been her mother’s drive that made Mammitas a reality.
“It’s definitely been surreal. I think you imagine and envision something, especially with a parent because it’s hard not to dream with them,” she said. “When you see it come to life, and you see the little things connect, it’s such an accomplishment. My mom, I feel so proud of her.”
When founding Mammitas, Milian said she wanted to infuse her culture into her shop. Its signature drinks include Horchata and Dulce de Leche lattes, and a variety of Mexican sweet breads are offered to eat. In the spring, Milian plans to introduce fresh juice offerings as well.
“We use Spanish because that’s our home language, so it’s almost like opening our home to other people and just inviting them in to just enjoy whatever they’re doing here,” Ortega said. “There’s a lot of different drinks and flavors that come from Spanish culture that a lot of people don’t realize.”
Iowa City Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said the Linn Street spot will serve as a good location for Mammitas.
“The adaptive reuse of the storefront on Linn Street for Mammitas is great,” she said. “It’s just a nice, niche space for her and her business, and is kind of eclectic, and her offerings are a little more eclectic.”