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Ellas Café plans to become a safe space for LGBTQ+ and Latinx folks

This is a love story centered around coffee.

“I was walking on my lunch break that day into Colectivo where Renee was working at the time and it was love at first sight,” said Sofia Esmeralda, co-owner of Ellas Cafe, when her partner, both romantically and in business, Renee Valdez interjected: “I felt like no one was around at the moment because I had a long line out the door and this day I was working the register and I usually don’t work late. That day I worked late.”

After Sofia held up the line and nervously ordered her coffee, they exchanged numbers. Over time they both spoke about their passions. Renee mentioned her love for coffee, having been a barista at Starbucks and then Colectivo with hopes of owning her own cafe one day. Sofia encouraged Renee to set their dreams into reality. Now three years later, their love of coffee has blossomed into a venture of their own, an LGBTQ+ Latinx pop-up cafe called Ellas, which means she/her in Spanish.

“Ellas came from women,” said Valdez. “Women are doing the majority of the things, not just in the coffee world, but around the world. They always seem to be just a shadow in the background. They come up with the ideas, they come up with the art, they come up with a lot of things to make this world run and we just don't get enough credit.” 

The name is also in Spanish to signify their community, culture and Latinx women. Beyond honoring Latinx women through the name, Ellas’s coffee is sourced from a Latinx female farmer Liz Calderon with Magia Coffee. Supporting women in all steps of the process, from the coffee beans all the way to when you receive your cup of joe from Sofia and Renee. Ellas aims for the cafe to become a safe space for the queer community. Sofia recalls the first time their pop-up cafe was stationed outside of Milwaukee.

“Having our flag up was intimidating,” said Esmeralda. “It was also beautiful to see some of our gaybies find comfort and come get an iced coffee, chat with us for a while and feel like, okay, even though my community is predominantly one way and thinks one way and makes me feel bad for being the way that, it gets better. It's okay, I can go to Ellas’s pop-ups and kick it with them and drink some iced coffee.”

Currently, the cafe has exclusively been only doing popup events. It will partner with Integrative Wellness every other Saturday this October for a morning yoga class.

Audio Storyteller | Radio Milwaukee