If you've ever been stuck at Denver International Airport waiting through flight delays or layovers, a good cup of coffee would have been the perfect thing to get you through — but where do you find one? In case this scenario ever arises again (and it surely will), a new cafe will soon be there to provide you with locally roasted coffee: Kabod Coffee will unveil its first retail coffee shop this summer.
Muluye Hailemariam has operated a small business at DIA since 2011, but until recently, it had nothing to do with coffee. She ran a kiosk that sold jewelry, clothing and other apparel. But now she has her sights set on a different kind of business: Hailemariam also owns Kabod Coffee — which is currently only available online — that roasts coffee sourced from her original home of Ethiopia. A retail Kabod Coffee shop is currently under construction on the west side of DIA's main terminal, where the owner will soon offer Kabod's signature light-roast coffee, local kombucha, fresh fruit smoothies, grab-and-go items and pastries.
The opportunity to open a coffee shop at DIA came as a result of Hailemariam's success running her other business. "She was able to show success as a businesswoman just as a small cart," says Roman Perez, whose firm does the branding for Kabod. "When you can show that you can grow, you have a vision and follow your vision, you can succeed."
"My passion is business, helping the community and serving good things for human beings," says Hailemariam, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia in 1995.
"I grew up here more than I know Ethiopia," she says, yet she vividly remembers the culture around coffee in Ethiopia. "Coffee in Ethiopia means gathering and having fun — to release stress. It's not only for adults, it's for kids and middle-aged and old people. When they go to a coffee shop, they will find somebody, they will find friends. They are not alone. So that's the kind of environment we would like to create."
Hailemariam chose the name Kabod because of its cultural significance. "[Kabod is] Hebrew, from the Bible. It means 'honor' or 'power,'" she explains. "We would like to connect [people to the] origin of coffee...by honoring or giving glory."
Hailemariam learned the steps that go into coffee production firsthand. Her grandfather was a farmer, and she spent her early years learning from him. After moving to the U.S., she recalls, "I was roasting coffee myself the way I like it, but couldn't find that in marketplaces."
She spent years developing relationships with coffee farmers to create the farm-to-cup chain that is Kabod's signature. "The entire process is really hands-on," she says. "We are always going to know the entire process…who we bought the coffee from." The result is 100 percent organic, unblended coffee, sourced from small farmers in Ethiopia.
The coffee facility runs on a very small scale: Hailemariam and her crew roast just fifteen pounds of coffee at a time. "It's a really small roaster that we have in Denver," says Perez. "But a small batch creates a nicer, more uniform profile and really good quality."
Although an opening date is still to be determined and rests largely at the discretion of DIA, Hailemariam is doing everything she can ahead of time to prepare. Ultimately, though, her goal is to be a model for other women in business. "My story is, I'm a woman immigrant," she notes. "It's not easy, but I would like to encourage women who have a vision and a dream they have to never give up, and they have to continue to follow their dreams. They have to never, ever give up."
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