Back of the Yards’ very own launch new cafe
Jesse Iñiguez and Mayra A.Hernandez stand behind the register of their newly opened Back of the Yards Coffeehouse and Roastery business. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
Once the home to the Union Stockyards, Back of the Yards is now home to its newest and only coffee shop dedicated to bringing artisanal coffee to the neighborhood. The Back of the Yards Coffeehouse and Roastery, 2059 W. 47th Street, celebrated its grand opening on Sat. May 13, 2017.
Customers wait in line on the grand opening day, Saturday, May 13. (The Gate/Mary Chen)
Mayra Azucena Hernandez is a Guanajuato native whose family moved to Chicago when she was a little under a year old. She remembers moving around a lot, but her family eventually settled in Back of the Yards on the 4500 block of Laflin. Hernandez recalls living in one of three homes on that block and always enjoyed growing up there because there was no traffic and all of the kids had the freedom to play without having to worry about being interrupted. “That’s where I have my most favorite childhood memories or any of my childhood memories,” said Hernandez.
Back of the Yards is also where she met her friend Jesse Iñiguez, the co-owner of Back of the Yards Coffee & Roastery.
Born and raised in Back of the Yards, Iñiguez, has been volunteering and participating in many aspects of his community since the early age of 14. He participated in the Marimba Ensemble program and in College Loop. Iñiguez also co-founded the Immigration Committee and the Youth Council at Holy Cross Immaculate Heart of Mary parish. Later, politics took Iniguez on a different path. Now his path is that of coffee.
But it’s not just any coffee, Iñiguez and Hernandez are both intentional on all things being run locally and with the purpose of helping out the community in Mexico and in Back of the Yards.
The coffee beans they roast are from a plantation in Nueva Independencia Chiapas, Mexico. This is where Iñiguez and Hernandez have visited to build an even larger community for Back of the Yards.
The dream to start the coffee shop started at CumbiaSazo. It is a well-known dance-off with a meticulously curated line-up of DJ’s, Musicians, and bands that share their love for Cumbias. CumbiaSazo features art vendors, artists, food, stage art installations and more.
“I remember the first time I ever went out to vend I was like, I’m hanging out with all these cool people, [there are] artists, there’s music…I can do this for the rest of my life!” said Hernandez. She continued saying that they were curious to see how it would go selling iced coffee at the event. “I was selling my arts and crafts and one day we were like let’s just try to make iced coffee and see how it goes. We joked around about making a logo and all.”
One of the fastest ways for them to make money while the coffee shop was not yet open, was to participate in events that would allow for them to have one-on-one conversations with people. It is important for them to have those conversations to humanize the coffee experience and tell their Back of the Yards stories. “We’ve had to fight for everything we have here [in Back of the Yards], we are close-guarded,” said Iñiguez.
Being no stranger to volunteering his time in the community, Iniguez most recently served coffee for the #IncreasethePeace Teen AllNiter at The Port Ministries and has participated in Back of the Yards College Prep events as well as many others throughout the community.
Hernandez and Iñiguez credit their social capital for being a part of their success in opening the coffee shop. Like their slogan, they are “Resilient and Robust.”
Jesse iñiguez preps a tasty beverage for a customer. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
Iñiguez is also a Harley rider and recalls hanging out at a biker bar and being recognized by someone who just happened to read an article about the coffee shop. He also had a similar experience while he was banking. “Oh you’re from the coffee shop, it’s really cool what you’re doing there,” the banker said. “That was really cool, you know?,” Iñiguez said.
What is it about the coffee from Back of the Yards Coffeehouse and Roastery that really resonates in a community like Back of the Yards? Perhaps it is the collective efforts they are making to bring quality and affordable coffee into a community where most coffees have gone through a lot of processing. Or maybe it is because the community is being revitalized by the amount of positivity that is lingering in the air.
In previous months they’ve hosted coffee tastings and coffee club subscription events. With the subscriptions, you can get coffee delivered to your home or office. The subscriptions are available for three and six months or one-year long coffee orders. Deliveries go out every Wednesday and this is a way they do retail without having to lose the freshness of their coffee.
Back of the Yards Coffeehouse and Roastery kitchen staff prepare a delicious bagel sandwich during the soft opening. (The Gate/Gloria Talamantes)
The coffee shop is looking to keep emissions low by keeping everything local and making their own compost from waste. The to-go cups selected are from Chicago and are compostable too.
Back of the Yards Coffee House and Roastery invites you to come and support the locally owned coffee shop, try the food and coffee. “ We want this to be the community’s coffee shop.”
Iñiguez points out that he thinks of Back of the Yards as a community that creates. He says “Back of the Yards is making something from a green edible seed into a drink” and continues to talk about his excitement about the coffee shop.
“I am most excited about the fact that we can change the narrative and perspective of Back of the Yards for outsiders but also from the community within. We need something to be proud of.”