Jordi Carbonell

Cafe owner Jordi Carbonell relocated from Barcelona to Detroit for love, but his relationshipwith his adopted community of Southwest Detroit plays no small part in keeping him here. Carbonell met his wife, Melissa Fernandez, a second generation resident of Southwest Detroit, in 1996 while she was studying abroad in Spain. The couple resided in Miami for a couple of years before returning to Fernandez’s hometown with a dream of opening a coffee shop. Their idea was founded on the basis that strong communities need a central gathering space. “We filled a hole in the neighborhood: a place for meetings, networking,” says Carbonell. Calling himself a “city boy,” he says that Southwest Detroit offers business ventures “density” and a lack of competition. “The neighborhood didn’t have this type of industry,” he points out. Now, the bustling Cafe con Leche sits at a busy corner on Southwest Detroit’s main street, W. Vernor. Kathy Wendler, president of the agency tasked with managing that commercial district, says that the coffee shop is integral to the life of the neighborhood. “It’s the kind of place where you know immediately you’re part of a community — of residents, high schoolers, travelers in cyberspace, and young and old hatching plots to save the world!” Cafe con Leche faces a park and the shop’s large windows showcase the comfortable cafe from outside — and the considerable foot traffic that passes it from within. “That’s one of the things I like about this corner,” Carbonell says. “City people want to see this in a city — that’s one of my motivations for opening every day.” Carbonell was assisted by the International Institute and La Sed when he first arrived to the Detroit area, but thinks that newcomers would benefit from some concentrated information services to help them adjust. After eight years in Metro Detroit, he says, “I still don’t know a lot about the East Side.” Although Carbonell claims to keep “one eye on Spain,” it is clear that he has made a home here. “The neighborhood found me,” he says.

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