A couple’s pandemic passion project turned into a business.
Tasa Coffee Roasters opened September 2 at 4136 W. North Ave. Neighbors can order dishes prepared by Jackie Marquez, including slow-roasted Cuban sandwiches and handmade empanadas. There’s also coffee with beans roasted on-site by her husband, Pierre Marquez, including the shop’s iced coconut-lavender latte topped with foam.
The sleek cafe with “latte-colored” walls was a T-Mobile store that had stood empty for more than six years, Pierre Marquez said. The couple have been able to resurrect it over the past two years thanks in part to $230,000 from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.
Pierre and Jackie Marquez were raised in Chicago by Mexican immigrants and grew up sitting around tables drinking coffee and making memories with their family, they said. The cafe’s name, Tasa, is derived from “cup” in Spanish, and the shop is now one of West Humboldt Park’s only local cafes and roasters.
The couple hope Tasa will provide Latino communities on the West Side with a place for quality coffee, an investment more often seen in predominantly white and gentrified North Side neighborhoods.
“This neighborhood deserves its own cool cafe too,” said Jackie Marquez. “I’ve dreamed of opening something like this since I was 13, sitting there watching the Food Network, thinking that one day it will be me sharing my passion for food and coffee with my community. .”
The café’s benches and tables were custom-made by Latino carpenters, the architecture and design were done by all-female teams, and the store plans to hire Latina-led staff, Jackie Marquez said. .
Jackie Marquez manages the kitchen, his sister, Jasmin Ortiz, prepares drinks up front and Pierre Marquez “brings the fresh coffee to him from the back”, where he has a visible room dedicated to professional roasting equipment , they said.
The business started when Pierre Marquez bought a $200 home roaster during lockdown, passing the time by “making coffee, sipping it and taking notes”, he said.
While Pierre Marquez was studying and his creations were “going from burnt to much better,” Jackie Marquez was starting a home cooking and catering business, she said.
Marquez is trained as a chef and had a kitchen job lined up in the Fulton Market area before the pandemic shut it down, she said. What started as an Instagram page for her home cooking turned into opportunities for delivery and snacks during the pandemic, and she was bringing packets of coffee from Pierre Marquez to serve with meals.
“Everything we did to get here was totally organic,” said Jackie Marquez. “And everyone loved the coffee.”
Pierre smiled and took his wife’s hand.
“I knew a store would work because its food is delicious and the coffee is addictive,” Pierre Marquez said. “We got here because we did it as a team.”
Tasa has a pick-up window for coffee to go, a delivery service and small tables where customers will have access to free wifi. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday through Sunday.
There’s also a “community table,” with additional seating for people to dine together and do coffee tastings.
“We’re hoping people will sit down together and drink coffee,” Jackie Marquez said. “Like what brought us closer to our families growing up.”
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