SAN ANTONIO – Barrio Barista on San Antonio’s West Side is the only independently owned coffee shop in the area.
“There’s no Starbucks, there’s no independent coffee shop,” owner Gil De Hoyos says. “The closest coffee you can find – if you want to call it coffee – is the Valero on Callaghan and Culebra, and the Valero in front of St Mary’s University.”
The coffee shop has filled that void for the low-income Mexican American community it sits in for that last six years. De Hoyos co-owns the coffee shop with his father Gilbert De Hoyos, but the father-son duo believe the shop does more than just nourish.
“I gave myself an understanding that a coffee shop for the community would be a great asset for coffee, community and culture,” Gilbert De Hoyos says.
Lizet Casas is a regular at Barrio Barista and a project coordinator at Memorial High School, where 83% of students are economically disadvantaged.
This coffee shop is something her students can call their own.
“It’s really important that the kids know that this location is right here in their neighborhood,” Casas says. “They can come here, there’s WiFi – especially if they need to do homework.”
Casas also grew up in this neighborhood and she says she’s proud her barrio has this coffee shop.
“The best part about it is that they understand it’s a local alumni. So, Mr. De Hoyos graduated from Edgewood ISD as well, it’s somebody who lived in their neighborhood,” Casas says. “Grew up just the way they did and he’s able to come back and be an entrepreneur.”
The pandemic has prevented Memorial’s culinary arts students from earning credit and experience, but Gilbert De Hoyos is going to help these students get across the finish line.
He’s starting a partnership that allows them learn the art of coffee and entrepreneurship while still earning high school credit.
“We all must serve a purpose being that I’m from this neighborhood — that I can be a part of helping others in their early age in life,” Gilbert De Hoyos says.
He recently stopped by Memorial to meet with Casas and the program’s chefs.
“So for them it’s a safe place it’s right by the school and it’s going to help them achieve their certificate so that they are closer to graduation,” Casas says.
His son believes that it will instill a level of confidence in these students when they walk into other coffee shops.
“Order that espresso or order that latte, know what to look for and how it’s prepared, and say, ‘You know what? I learned this in the hood,’” Gil De Hoyos says.