When local businessman Chris Frésquez opened his first Palabras Con Sabor Coffeehouse, at 22nd and Welton streets, in 2000, it was something to be proud of. First and foremost a bilingual bookstore dedicated to promoting Latino authors, it grew into something more: a coffeehouse/Internet cafe/meeting place to provide a safe haven where people from the Latino community could attend book signings, network and just talk.
"Before that, there was no place on that scale for the Latin community to go to," Frésquez says, looking back. But, he adds regretfully, the location didn't quite jell: "The community fell in love with it, but there just was not enough revenue in that area to keep it going." So he shut the door and set out to relocate. He settled on a Leetsdale Drive space, where, after six months of construction, the new, improved Palabras Con Sabor officially debuted in November.
Palabras carries on its original theme by offering a bilingual selection of books primarily written by Latino authors along with coffee drinks, sandwiches and sticky-sweet traditional pastries. Also available are such high-tech advancements as state-of-the-art plasma-screen computers, high-speed Internet connections and wireless service. Frésquez is especially pleased with the place's relaxing, homey ambience, which is enhanced by warm tropical colors, cushy lounge chairs, functional work desks and other niceties. "I'm a stickler about this place staying clean, crisp and comfortable," he says. "My priority focus is on customer service." That, he adds, is in the able hands of manager Nikki Rivera, whose "Mi casa, su casa" attitude rules the roost.
And, yes, in spite of the big-city improvements, Palabras remains true to its original cultural goals, which will be met multifold when the coffeehouse throws a grand-opening fete from 2 to 8 p.m. on Saturday. A reading and book signing by local mystery author Manuel Ramos kicks off the event; afterward, there's a full roster of Latino-themed entertainment, including poetry readings, Brazilian jazz and live comedy.
Palabras Con Sabor is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily except Sundays.