You’ve become so empowered by real estate. Starting from feeling nervous, thinking you bought one house and that’s all you could do, to owning multiple properties and starting a business. You’ve had this explosion in confidence around what you can do through real estate. Can you tell me about your journey?
“It was 2010 during the economic downturn. I still had a job, and all of my co-workers were buying houses so I thought, ‘if they can buy houses, I can buy a house.’ Then I met a Realtor, and we looked everywhere. One day she called to asked me what I was doing right at that moment. Fortunately, I wasn’t working. So she said ‘let’s go look at this house, it literally just came on the market and I think you’re going to love it.’ That’s how we found my first house. I qualified for the $8K Obama tax credit which was awesome. I was essentially able to start my life. Since then, it’s slowly gained equity.
Last year, I refinanced the house because we needed to move closer to my daughter’s school. We were driving all the way from the west side of town to the Lowry neighborhood. It would take an hour just to get to school in the morning due to the I-70 traffic. We needed to do something. That’s when I called you and said, ‘I really, really want to find a new house for my daughter.’ The house you showed us is 7 minutes away from her school. Plus, we fell in love with the backyard! There was space where we can do everything we need. That’s why this house was perfect for us!”
You bought right before covid and had no idea you’d be spending so much time in your home. How’s it worked out over the last year?
“It’s been a transition. It took a lot of getting used to, but the place is great. First, we had the office in the dining room which was perfect because Adelita was going to school online at home. We were both in here working. Her breaks and recesses would be going for a jump on the trampoline or we’d just go for a walk on one of the pretty paths by the house.”
How do you like your new house, Adelita?
“I love it.”
What’s your favorite part?
“My favorite part is the office because I can work with Mom.”
During Covid-19 it feels like parents and kids need to be super separated in order to get their work done. But not the two of you, ladies – you’re working together?
“We’re a duo. We get work done. Anything I do she’s right next to me. Even recently with starting the new business. I did a whole series of classes in the evenings though Mi Casa Resource Center on how to open a new business. I’m at the big desk in the office and she’s at the desk right next to me so she essentially took the classes with me. It’s hilarious because she knows all the entrepreneurial terms. She’s even said she wants to start her own business. Our space is made so we can always just be together.”
I want to hear all about your new business and how it came about.
“Well, the opportunity to start a new business is directly related to my real estate investments. During Covid-19, like a lot of us, I just had too much time on my hands, so I started thinking of ideas. I wanted to buy another house as in investment opportunity in my hometown of Trinidad. At the same time, this opportunity came up to start a new business. I was at that point where I was questioning if I could do both or had to choose one. I only had the savings for one. That’s when conditions in the real estate market tipped in my favor. Interest rates fell, and I was able to refinance my first house again, get a lower rate, and pull out equity. Since I bought my first house at $150K and had been paying on it for 10 years, I had enough equity in the house to refinance this second time. First, to put the down payment on our new home and then second, to get the money for the down payment on the Trinidad house. With the upward trend in the housing market, I already have equity on this house. With the values having gone up so much in one year, I took out a home equity line of credit to finance the startup of a new business.”
“We’re opening up a coffee shop, Tonantzin Casa de Cafe. Tonantzin refers to ‘Mother Earth.’ She’s an indigenous goddess of the Nahua in Mexico and is also known as the Virgen de Guadalupe. The story is that the Nahua adopted Tonantzin as the Virgen de Guadalupe to be able to continue to celebrate Tonantzin. Mother Earth is also represented with corn in our culture and in our coffee shop, we will celebrate this with our star product, atole. Our version of atole will be made of a blue corn and it’s often explained as a corn-based breakfast porridge. When cooked it becomes a beautiful purple drink. And to top it off, blue corn has a higher protein content so its super healthy for you. It’s a perfect gluten free, high protein, breakfast option.
We’ve been drinking it for generations here in the Southwest. Adelita drinks atole all the time. Since corn is the staple of the Americas, the concept of atole in general is this corn based drink that takes different recipes across indigenous cultures. My goal is to start with this main atole recipe which you’ll always see in my shop. Eventually, I want to carry the different recipes, feature one a month, and put together a book that brings together all the recipes. We’ll also feature flavors from the Southwest and Latin America; horchata latte, dulce de leche frappe, and a lot of cinnamon.
Aguas frescas are really big where my dad is from in Mexico, so we’ve done the research on those recipes. We’re just playing with them to make them our own. We’re opening in the late summer, so we want to have those beverages that are healthy yet refreshing in the hot weather. We’ll have watermelon with strawberry and a little touch of lime which is just delicious. We’re working the recipes out now to get everything right.
The kitchen here in our new home is the test kitchen where all the drinks are researched and developed. I even bought an espresso machine so we can make our test espresso drinks. We make the atole here regularly too. We will also serve quesadillas, burritos, and empanadas so we brought those in from the vendors and tested them here. Because of Covid-19, I can’t bring in a big party to test so I just bring a couple friends over to try it out. Now that we’re vaccinated it’s a lot easier.”
When does the shop open?
“Our grand opening is late August or early September.”
What does this mean for you, bringing your heritage to life? I know how busy you are so adding this to your plate – what inspired you to do this now?
“I felt like I needed to be connected to the community and I want the opportunity to give back. I feel super successful, and I came from very humble roots so I just want to be able to give back to the community that gave me the opportunity to thrive. What better way to do this then to create a business that celebrates and shares our heritage! Additionally, I feel like coming out of the pandemic, everybody felt so isolated, a coffee shop is a place where people can come together and just feel like they’re at home, feel safe and just be with other people in the community. We’re right next to the college so I want students there to know they can come study in the coffee shop, hang out, and do their work. That’s where I did my work as a student, at the coffee shop. I want to provide all of these fun, culturally inspired drinks but I also want to make it a place where the community can feel comfortable to reconnect with others and use their space for their needs. Another example are business people who need places to have meetings especially with lots of firms being hybrid or still fully remote. Lastly, I’ve been working in strong collaboration with the capoeira association right next door. 910Arts is an art building full of art and culture and we wanted to make it feel even more community centered. What better way to do this then by bringing in a coffee shop where people can feel at home by having a culturally inspired drink or food item.
We’re so family centered that I’m hoping the coffee shop is a way that we can expand our family and create a place where everyone feels happy to come and hang out. This sense of family is also related to travel. When I traveled growing up, we would always go to Mexico to visit my grandma. Even now when I travel to southern Colorado, it’s about going home. Travel for us is going home. I hope the coffee shop’s experience feels like a little bit of travel so that way other people can get that same feeling of home.”
Is this your first business venture on your own?
“The roots of where the coffee shop specific idea came from is that my uncle owns a restaurant and I grew up as a waitress there. The restaurant was our family center for birthday parties, graduation parties, and holiday parties. Everyone in the family worked there. I worked there throughout high school. That’s the other part of why I wanted to do a coffee shop. I first wanted to do a diner but those aren’t the same in the big city. The next best thing to a diner, or a more modern version, is a coffee shop. In small towns people go to the diner but in larger cities people go to the coffee shop to hang out.”
How do you feel like real estate has helped you fund these dreams in your life like owning multiple houses and starting a business?
“Real estate has given me the resources to make my dreams a reality. I am using the equity to start my business and expand my real estate portfolio. I know that the market is going to continue to grow so my investments feel safe in my houses. I know if an emergency situation occurred again like Covid-19, I’d have the backup of having those real estate investments as part of my savings plan.”
How’s the third house going down in Trinidad that you just bought?
“Great! I got it at a decent price. It’s not a turnkey house, it’s the opposite of turnkey. Everyone in my family is very family oriented so we pulled together to get this house remodeled. My stepdad and sister are doing the demolition. My sister is doing the demo in the kitchen, and we just replaced the roof. We’re waiting on quotes for the kitchen. All my houses are ranches and they’re boxy, so in this one we’re taking out one of the walls. It’s going to open up the space which is really exciting.”
It sounds like you’re able to help your family so much through this new found love of real estate investing.
“Yes, real estate has given me the opportunity to build a space for my sister that we can use for all of us to come together. The house is literally walking distance to my mom’s house, it about three houses away. And it’s a family project, she sent me pictures of her demoing the place with her muscles. Real estate has been a fun way to bring my family even closer! I feel super blessed to have the opportunity to leverage it for so many positive adventures.”
Photography by: Jordan Facin