Isabel Oliveira, Owner/operator at James River Cafe
Mighty Missouri Coffee is proud to partner with some great shops and wonderful people. In this series, we're interviewing the folks behind some of those cafes. If you love local, be sure to support them!
How did you get into coffee?
By necessity. When the Harvest won the bid to operate the James River Cafe, one of the prerequisites was that we would have to operate a coffee shop. We had previously operated a lunch counter at the Harvest (fresh sandwiches and lots of pastries) but no coffee. We had to learn quickly!
"When you are starting
something new, it's really important
to learn the fundamentals."
You've taken courses at a place we really look up to, Intelligentsia. How has this affected your approach to coffee?
The Intelligentsia training set us on the right path and corrected a few bad habits. When you are starting something new, it's really important to learn the fundamentals. The Intelligentsia training did that. It was mostly very basic but really important stuff like fixing bitterness, getting a velvety foam, and choosing the right beans. We spend some time on the coffee extraction curve which is basically the Holy Grail. Most importantly, it gave us confidence that we can make a decent cup of coffee. I'm looking forward to more training there. Their coffee is as good as it gets.
What has been the highlight of your coffee venture so far?
The relationships we have built with new and old customers. Being in Bismarck opened a lot of new doors for us and helped the Harvest, Station West and our catering arm.
James River is affiliated with the Harvest Brazilian Grill in Mandan, Which has been raved as one of the fifteen best eats in North Dakota (http://www.movoto.com/nd/north-dakota-restaurants/) What can you tell me about serving specialty foods in North Dakota?
The Harvest has received lots of accolades over the past few years thanks to the tireless work of my husband Edgar. Serving specialty foods is difficult because you need well trained and experienced staff. That's now always easy to find... in fact it is nearly impossible in our current economy. The Harvest for example had to be closed during the summer due to staffing issues. Edgar worked hard to get some people from out of state and we now have the strongest staff we have ever had. The Harvest reopens on Sept 1 and we are very relieved. Aside from that, specialty foods may take a little longer to catch on but the people have been receptive.
What is the best way to turn a dream of starting something into action?
I like to plan and wait for the right opportunity. My husband just does it. I say "no" to his ideas often. However, when I saw the Heritage Center I said "yes" within 30 seconds, maybe less.
How do you overcome inevitable upsets in entrepreneurism?
The biggest lesson out of all this is resilience. In addition you must be able to manage your internal life (i.e. your feelings) very well. It's not always easy. There are a few "tell me again why are we doing this?" moments.
What are you listening to/reading right now?
Reading?! Who has time to read???
Thank you! Is there anything you'd like to add?
I should make more time to read.
You can find James River Cafe at 612 East Boulevard, inside the Heritage Center in Bismarck.