Spend just a few minutes with small business owners Julio and Yesenia Cordero and you’ll see why their Salisbury-based café Coffee Amigo was named the best coffee shop in South Australia at the State Restaurant and Catering Awards for Excellence in July, as well as the best coffee shop/tea house in Australia at the national awards in October.
Their enthusiasm and passion for good coffee is clear, and the locals agree, with Coffee Amigo also taking home the prestigious consumer vote award at the SA awards.
Julio said he and wife Yesenia took their entire team of six staff to the state awards night to have fun, and just enjoy being nominated for the third year running.
“We didn’t expect to win – we already felt like a winner,” Julio said.
“When I went on stage to collect the award, I started dancing!
“To then go on to receive the highest score in the coffee shop/tea house category nationally makes me so proud of the café and our ‘amigos’.
“Here we don’t work and I don’t want people to treat me like a boss, I am a friend. Amigo is a friend with everybody and it has always been my motto to be as friendly as possible”.
Moving to Australia from El Salvador eight years ago, Julio has a long history of working in the hospitality industry, and says good coffee is a strong part of the culture in his home country.
“From age two or three you are given coffee and a biscuit in El Salvador, it’s part of life” Julio said.
“I have been working since age 11 in hospitality, and was managing restaurants at 16. I used to train myself by watching movies and seeing how they hold trays as waiters.
“After moving to Australia, I continued to work hospitality and share my love of making coffee, and four years ago we decided to start Coffee Amigo after I struggled to find work.
“I saw the potential of Salisbury, and I visited the area to see what coffee was available and there was none I liked. I even burnt my tongue on one as it was way too hot, and I thought I need to bring good coffee to this place.”
Yesenia and Julio said while starting a small business has had its challenges, setting up in Salisbury was a good decision, despite some doubts from their friends.
“When we told our friends we want to set up a business here, they asked us why we would choose Salisbury,” Yesenia said.
“We said, why not? It is fantastic here. John Street is like a multicultural Mecca – you can get Asian, Afghan, Japanese, Indian or Latin American food all on this street. You don’t see that many other places.
“The support from the local community here has been brilliant and they feel very proud of our success”.
Coffee Amigo currently has seating capacity for 24 customers, although Julio and Yesenia would love to soon expand their business and hire more amigos to join the family.