Serving his country in the Air Force, providing for his family and having faith in God is what our dad is and has been about. Julio Soto, our dad, a veteran, entrepreneur, property owner and proud father of four children, was diagnosed with moderate to severe dementia in 2009, at age 71. At the time he was working towards opening up a community café on the lower level of the building he resides in and purchased in 2001. He envisioned a community café built with love and faith, a place from the heart where love is the pulse.
In order to complete our Dad's vision and open up the café, I moved back to New York with my son and my sister Nova. Nova took out a second mortgage and depleted funds saved for her kid's future College education to open the café. The revenue of the café would help save the building from foreclosure, or so we hoped. Our world quickly became consumed with ups and downs; many moments full of grief, many days in the courtroom, many visits to the doctor, stress, stress, and more stress, fear of losing everything, decision making, decision-making, and more decision-making, and most of all, adjusting to the loss of our dad's world.
This has caused emotional friction and heartache within the family, to say the least. With no working capital, in debt and no credit we kept the faith and kept trucking. Providing excellent service, bridging communities, embracing the arts, the community, and offering a great atmosphere for all to enjoy and call their home away from home. We have not yet given up, and part of that is due to our loyal friends, costumers and community.
It took us more than 12 years to open the café, but in March of 2013 my father's dream became a reality. We opened the doors of Casa de Café! Our coffee, as well as, our espresso-based drinks are excellent and unlike no other in Yonkers. Our baked goods and pastries are guaranteed fresh daily and are delicious. Casa de Café is has now become "˜home away from home' to a diverse group of people ranging from local residents, to city workers and officials. People come from all over come to enjoy our warm, friendly atmosphere; some sit and enjoy our free wireless, others come to play the piano, guitar or even sing a song. Casa de Café has become a place to for people to come and share their lives and passions with each other. It has become a home for many, and seeing it flourish is a beautiful thing. We have repeatedly been told that there is no place like this in Yonkers a place where love and positive vibes are matched by our excellent coffee or espresso drinks. We take great pride in our community and are very happy serving the city of Yonkers.
Casa de Café is what Urban Developers call a "Third Place Space", First Place being your home, Second Place being your career and "Third Place " being an "anchor of community life that facilitates and fosters broader, more creative interaction". At Casa de Café, our motto "Mi Casa es Su Casa " is truly experienced. It is also a family business working towards bridging the gaps between an already established community and a newly established community.
Our business is in great danger. First off due to the unfortunate circumstances of our Dad's health, we started the business in debt and along with that comes no working capital. We were very limited in funds, which impacted us from including certain products or services that would guarantee us more economic success, such as installing a kitchen to be able to serve breakfast and lunch, or funds for commercial equipment that would give us access to provide healthy food. We have faith that would all come in time.
Currently, we can only afford one employee (Ashley), who works as a barista and counter person. My son Shaun manages the café and is a barista. I work on developing the culture of the café, which entails coordinating events such as art gallery showings, book readings, and intergenerational story telling and film documentary talk back. On the first and third Saturday of every month we have an Open Mic, that is hosted by Hector Santiago. Hector is a young active community member, activist and leader who sacrifices getting compensated for his active role in not only hosting Open Mics, but as well, assisting us in all aspects of creating a Community based, successful café.
On the weekends I work to give my son Shaun a break from his 70-hour workweek, as well it gives him time to spend with his two-year old daughter, Selena. Unfortunately, for me, due to the fact that we are working in the red, I don't make an income. I have sacrificed an income for 3 years now. However, we as a family have sacrificed immensely, in all areas.
In the meantime we are not blind to the fact that we basically need serious help with resources to save the building and keep the business alive long enough to get to that success; Although we do believe in miracles, we are also realistic and are in a situation where we find ourselves asking for financial assistance to All Casa de Café believers, Family and Friend believers and anyone who feels compelled by our story. We need your support and we need it yesterday, so to speak.
How Much Do We Need?
We have put around ¼ of a million dollars into gutting out the building and renovating and completing the family business on the first floor and our Dad's residence on the second floor. If we weren't stuck with the financial residue of Dad's dementia we would be in the green and not the red. In our first 10 months the business income was at $70,000.
We need $253,348 to clear our Dad of all debt and save the building from foreclosure. It is clear that my dad's dream has become our financial nightmare, but we believe with your help this can change. By helping our family you would be impacting a whole family, and a whole community, in the most positive ways imaginable.
I truly believe that if you don't know us and never walked into Casa de Café and happened to venture in one day, you would feel our spirit, the foundation of love and faith that this café was built on. Your heart would express to you that our family is well deserving of your support. We are here making a positive difference for a growing, vibrant community. We are that place that will continue to "lift as we climb."
Today, we are reaching out our hands to you to LIFT us up, so to speak. With much gratitude in our hearts we thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our story with you. Whatever you can give will help. Even if it means only passing this on to your friends and family or someone you specifically know that can help. We only ask that when you do pass it on you tell them why YOU feel they should support us. What does Casa de Café and the Soto family's success have to do with you? From the bottom of our hearts to yours THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU
Important Note: In the video I had stated, "the city wants our building" CORRECTION: It is not the city, but it is the "property developers" of the city that express interest and have plans to build two fifteen story apartment buildings with retail space on the ground floor on our street.
On another note: I would like to share with you the amazing support we receive from the people in the community who believe in us, and want to see us succeed have supported us, in oh so many ways. A young documentary filmmaker Melissa Elian, volunteered her services to create the video we attached. Customers, community members, city hall officials and family have shared their resources and services, Local Community organizations have offered their commercial kitchen space for us to prepare food, and members of the community have unselfishly shared their social and cultural capital with us in oh so many ways, and for that we are very thankful:.You know who you are:.
- Debora Ferreira
- Lisa Plaza
- Lynn Gonzales
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