Café Ollama’s Lesley Reyes talks Latin flavors, inspirations, traditions, and what’s next in The Pitch Questionnaire
Lesley Reyes and Francisco Murguia are the owners and operators of Café Ollama. Situated in the western boundary of the Crossroads (523 Southwest Blvd.), they were inspired to start the café out of a desire to share their culture with the community.
Café Ollama opened in March and quickly gained a loyal following in the community. You can usually find Reyes and Murguia at the café helping customers, planning their next event, or experimenting with new recipes. The couple grew up in Kansas City and after living and working in a slew of cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, and locales abroad, they decided to return and raise their son.
Reyes talks about her inspiration for the cafe, her favorite local restaurants, and what’s next for the business in this editon of the The Pitch questionnaire.
Owners: Lesley Reyes and Francisco Murguia Jr
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Current Neighborhood: Westside/Crossroads
First off, many people don’t know what the word ‘Ollama’ means. Can you explain it?: Ollama is short for ōllamalitzli which is the Mesoamerican ball game. Francisco is a soccer fanatic and because our specialty is café de olla, the name takes a play on those words.
How did Café Ollama come to be?: Francisco and I have always loved coffee. We’ve lived in many big cities and have always been into Latin coffee shops. We’ve always thought Kansas City needs and deserves a Latin coffee shop to represent our cultures, flavors, and traditions. We were both very committed to our careers so the time was always very hard to find. When COVID hit, we suddenly had all the time and we were both uncertain of our careers so we took the leap to begin the coffee shop.
How have things been progressing since opening Ollama?: Things have been great. The support and reception we’ve received so far has been so amazing and we are thrilled people are excited to try drinks and recipes we’ve curated.
The menu draws from a variety of different ingredients and unique techniques. Can you tell us about the inspiration for the menu?: The inspiration for the menu comes from ingredients familiar to our culture or techniques that we’ve learned in our travels. Most of these drinks are drinks we’ve had since our childhood, or would only have when going back to visit our countries, so they bring back major nostalgia for us and we’re happy to share them.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?: Francisco is all about soccer. He loves the game—playing, coaching, and teaching the game. I am an esthetician and professional makeup artist so I love anything that has to do with beauty, color, fashion, and art. But above everything else, we enjoy spending time as a family with our two-year-old son.
How has your background living and traveling in other cities informed your ideas around providing service to Kansas City?: We have definitely had our fair share of experiences living in big cities nationally and internationally. During those times, we’ve both worked in the service industry so we’ve picked up ideas and concepts from all those years of traveling. Along with that, we’re always continuing to pursue new ideas and concepts to see what will work best for us.
Any favorite local restaurants you love?: Baramee Thai Bistro, Westport Cafe, Fox and Pearl, Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, and Vietnam Cafe are some of our favorites.
What do you think Kansas City needs more of?: Inclusion. Kansas City needs more inclusion of different types of people and cultures.
What’s next for Ollama? Are there any future plans you’re excited about?: On August 6, we will be hosting a literature-themed First Friday. BLK+BRWN, a local book store, will be doing a pop-up at the cafe. There will be authors and we will have an open mic for anyone wanting to recite poems, spoken word, etc. This will be a family-friendly event so bring the nenes!