On dark winter mornings, the little blue coffee stand is an oasis of light on the northeast side of Mountain View Drive.
Kiki’s Island Espresso opened a little more than a year ago.
Baky Mikaele — who owns Kiki’s along with her husband, Iulai — says she’s dreamed about her own coffee shop since she was a student at Bartlett High School. It took time to make the dream a reality.
Finding the right location turned out to be one of the hardest parts, Mikaele said. Eventually, they settled on the rented space at the corner of North Klevin Street, right across the road from the market her cousin owns. After they found the land, there were permits to secure and inspections to pass. Finally, in December 2014, Kiki’s Island Espresso was ready for business.
At first, it was one of three food and drink carts on the lot. That didn’t last. The Dominican food stand disappeared. The Sudanese food truck closed last fall. Today, Kiki’s is the only business left on the corner.
Besides coffee, the espresso stand sells specialty items like mangonada, a popular Mexican fruit drink commonly made with mangos, chamoy sauce, chilis and lime. On some days, a line forms outside. On other days, business can be slow, Mikaele said. She’s there six days a week, in between dropping her son off at school on weekday mornings and picking him up in the afternoon; helping with homework assignments in between latte orders and inventory counts. It’s a balancing act she’s learning to master.
With support from a cadre of loyal customers, the stand makes enough to sustain itself, Mikaele said. Eventually, she hopes to expand her menu and hours and add a second location across town. But growth comes one step at a time.
“That’s what I’ve learned: Work hard and try to reach your goal,” she said, standing in front of her espresso machine early one Wednesday. “And this is what I like to do.”