Mia Moss and Joseph Landeros want to do more than sell coffee. They want their respective shops — Black Coffee and Casa Azul — to be a place of community and culture.
Their business models aren’t built on how many lattes they sell in a week, but what they bring to the neighborhoods they want to enrich.
Moss specifically wanted the east side of Fort Worth to have a coffee shop to call its own when she launched Black Coffee in November 2019. She wanted it in the neighborhood she grew up in and calls her own.
Generally, the neighborhood is overlooked by chains, Moss said. She sees value in the east side, though.
“And I wanted it to be a symbol to other people who are on the east side right now that you don’t have to move out of your community,” she said. “You don’t have to go to another side of town; whatever you want to do, you can do here, and people will support you.”
And people certainly are supporting her. The small shop was almost completely filled when she sat down with the Fort Worth Report. Some conversed with friends, some sat quietly working and some just enjoyed a cup of coffee.
Moss grew up down the street from the shop, 1417 Vaughn Blvd. She remembers the building as it previously was, a diner called Poly Grill. Moss didn’t see herself as a business owner growing up. She actually wanted to be a dancer and attended the University of Texas at Arlington.
But she developed a love for coffee, and her first job out of high school was at Seattle’s Best Coffee. Moss and her husband love to visit coffee shops when they travel to other cities and states. Eventually, she decided to open her own.
Thus, Black Coffee was born, and it was for her community. The shop does service projects like collecting kits for the homeless, or offers free coffee for Mother’s Day and partners with the local nonprofit Community Frontline.
“Regardless of what side of town I put something on, I’m going to be invested in the community and the people around me,” Moss said. “But when you put something in a part of the city that has been underserved and overlooked, you really have to hone in and show people that you care about them.”
Landeros also had a vision for a Latino-inspired coffee shop, and Casa Azul opened in historic Northside — at 300 W. Central Ave. — in November.
A majority of coffee in the industry comes from Latin and South America. The history of coffee is steeped in Latino culture, and he wants to honor that with the shop.
Landeros centered his drink offerings on his culture. He considers most of the drinks — like his favorite, café de olla; mexican mocha; mazapan latte; tres leche latte; Cubano — to be unique and steeped in Latino culture.
He credits a lot of success for helping make his dream come true to his wife, Anette Landeros, CEO of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He jokingly calls her his “non-silent partner” in the shop.
Landeros and Anette looked at a lot of spaces for the shop, but he wanted it to be in the North Side to serve that community. Once he found space, he was trying to decide on a name, and kept thinking back to Mexico City, where the famous blue house of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo still stands as a museum.
It all clicked, Landeros said. The space looked like a house. Hispanics know the connection of Frida to blue walls. Latinos would know and feel comfortable in the space. And Casa Azul was born.
“The third wave of coffee potentially can be a little intimidating, especially for older generation Latinos who maybe aren’t necessarily familiar or comfortable going into those spaces,” he said. “Having something that is culturally identifiable eliminates some of that barrier and gives them an open opportunity to experience coffee the way it is right now.”
Landeros and Moss agree that there’s value in people having spaces to gather where they feel safe in their culture. The goal is for their spaces to allow that.
Around her shop, Moss has art depicting Black culture and plays a variety of music for people in the space to experience as many cultures as possible — the music of the shop ranges from K-pop to jazz and everything in between. Moss wants people to see her culture, but also others’ as well because diversity is important to her.
Moss said it’s not uncommon for people of color to be in a space that is 100% white or 100% anything else from their culture. Speaking from her own experience, she said that can make them uncomfortable, even if it is not intentional.
Intentional or not though, Moss said people of color still want spaces they can be themselves without feeling any judgment for it. She wants Black Coffee to be a place for everybody, but she especially wants it to be a place for Black people.
“We need those spaces where we can be free to be ourselves, because what’ll happen is once they go to other places, they’ll be more apt to just be yourself and just, you know, do you,” Moss said.
Like Casa Azul, Moss also has drinks to reflect Black culture. One is a turmeric and honey latte, she said. It’s off-menu, but she notices the very healthy drink is demanded because of how much Black people care about their health. She said there’s a cultural shift to “paying attention to what we put in our bodies.”
Landeros knows humans inherently want connection and community, and coffee allows that. He wants Latinos in the neighborhood to have a space for that.
While speaking with the Fort Worth Report, Casa Azul was packed and filled with conversation and laughter, even over the music — which includes all kinds of Latin genres — Landeros could see evidence of his work to bring the community together.
He paused, listened, and smiled.
“You take the risk and hope that we can reap the reward of having a space filled with community, like we hear in the background,” he said. “Nothing brings me more joy.”
Kristen Barton is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.