It started with a flyer, a call for friendship in a foreign land. Detroit-born Melissa was studying abroad in Barcelona. Her friends wanted to hang out and meet locals, so they created a flyer asking barcelonés to introduce themselves. Jordi’s friends were brave enough to reply to the flyer, and Jordi met Melissa at a party where their friendship began.
For three years after that meeting, they wrote letters and sent postcards to one another before Jordi came to Detroit, where he and Melissa married. They moved out of state, but family brought Melissa back to her home of Southwest Detroit. When she arrived back home, she noticed there still wasn’t a community space for locals to gather. The two decided to open a coffee shop that could serve, Melissa said, as a “cozy living room for Southwest Detroit,” and spotlight Latin American flavors.
In 2007, they first opened Café Con Leche at Bagley and 21st, moving a year later to their current location on West Vernor at Scotten across the street from Clark Park. At the time Café Con Leche opened, this was one of the worst street corners in the neighborhood. Since then, Café Con Leche has served as a connection point for the whole community, a flyer calling for friendship and offering a home for it, too.
All types of people gather at Café Con Leche to connect, learn, and explore Southwest. It is Jordi’s and Melissa’s belief that a coffee shop should serve as a place to bring all people together. The street is alive and full again.
The Mexicantown Bakery is just down the street, as is Armando’s, one of Southwest’s wonderful Mexican restaurants. Across the street is the beautiful and historic Clark Park, which has been partly maintained by the people of the neighborhood for more than 20 years. Come visit the neighborhood and meet Jordi and Melissa at the cafe.
Someone once asked Jordi to describe how Café con Leche’s coffee is different from everyone else’s. He explained that it is Hispanic-influenced coffee, shaped by Spanish and Latin taste and culture.
So, naturally, someone asked, “What’s that mean?”
“It’s stronger, sweeter and more daring, ” Jordi said. And everyone at the café realized those three words not only described the café and our coffee, they also could be applied to the neighborhood, its people and all of Detroit.
We think there’s no sweeter place to gather in Southwest Detroit. Inside you’ll find local artists, neighborhood leaders, community members, entrepreneurs, school teachers, and youth united to share their ideas and stories over a warm cup of coffee or our award-winning hot chocolate. In the air, great music (played very softly) and free wi-fi so people can work, create, learn and catch-up. On our walls, the tales of local artists told in paintings, photographs and words. And in our cafe, of course, you’ll taste the strong flavors of our Spanish-infused menu.
Our Café con Leche logo is a “calavera” — an animated skeleton. It was originally drawn by the legendary Mexican political cartoonist and folk artist José Guadalupe Posada, who lived and worked in Mexico in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Posada’s original drawing shows the well-dressed calavera celebrating the Day of the Dead—La Dia de los Muertos—with a bloody knife in his hand. Our version is a little less violent, with the calavera now holding two portafilters for an espresso machine.
Posada and his art are part of Café con Leche’s heritage and a true representative of our café’s motto: Stronger, sweeter, daring. Posada was loved by the working people of Mexico because his cartoons fearlessly made fun of the dictator Porfirio Diaz and the aristocrats who grew richer and fatter under Diaz’s long rule.
One of Posada’s great admirers was Diego Rivera, Mexico’s most famous artist, who painted the murals that are the Detroit Institute of Arts’ best known treasure. Rivera called Posada “the great folk artist” and “the most important of my teachers.” In Rivera’s fabulous self-portrait mural “Sunday Dream,” Posada and one of his famous calaveras are central figures.
We’re proud to share this piece of Mexican art and history that has a special home in Cafe Con Leche. Our calavera reminds us that together we can remain strong through our culture and history. Find our “Cafe Calavera” in the streets of Southwest Detroit, peering around the corners, keeping an eye out for us Detroiters.