Best Barista

La Mancha

What's a woman to do when her dream of running a not-for-profit coffee shop and art gallery is sunk by doubters who fear the venture will hemorrhage money? If the woman in question is Veronica Holden, she bids goodbye to her staff, cadges furnishings from friends, lobbies her ward's alderwoman and re-launches the venture under a new name. Oh, and she does it by herself, with assistance from her husband, who quits his day job in order to take care of the kids. La Mancha Coffeehouse, located just around the corner from the landmark Crown Candy Kitchen in the Old North neighborhood, came into the world as a part of the Urban Studio, the brainchild of a Washington University student who'd won a fellowship to create a community space in a neighborhood that needed it. But the café couldn't sustain itself, much less the rest of Urban Studio, and sponsor Grace Hill Settlement House pulled the plug. Enter Holden, who lives in the neighborhood and refused to see her favorite gathering place (where she'd been working as a part-time manager) shuffle off this bricks-and-mortar coil. After only a few months, Holden reopened the space as a full-fledged business, complete with poetry nights, Spanish-conversation events and rotating art exhibitions. And the community rejoices.

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