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Law and lattes: Attorney couple opens coffee bar next to St. Paul law firm

Ofelia Ponce and Inti Martínez-Alemán opened Abogados Café and Mercadito in June, an establishment honoring their Latin American heritage and legal careers.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Guests who walk into Abogados Café and Mercadito at first might feel like they're transported into a small town in Latin America. Inside the cozy gourmet coffee bar on Dale Street in St. Paul, the floors feature traditional Mexican talavera tile. A mural by the entry features a beautiful scene of Antigua. You'll see curved, tile archways and paintings from Honduras.

"Every detail you see... it’s not a coincidence," said co-owner Ofelia
Ponce. "It’s planned. It's with lots of love." 

Love, too, is poured into each gourmet brew from Latin America, which is home to Ponce and her husband, co-owner Inti Martínez-Alemán. Their beans and blends are intentionally high-end, as is their detailed process of measuring and tamping grounds. 

They make sure espresso is evenly mixed before it's served and have a "good relationship" with their Latin American coffee farmers. Ponce and Martínez-Alemán, who met in Honduras and later married in the U.S., make sure their culture is represented as well as their coffee.

"We’re happy and grateful to be given the opportunity to serve the community here," Ponce said.

But the multicultural design and atmosphere isn't the only unique thing about the new establishment. If you take a look at the menu, you'll see a lot of legalese. Ponce and Martínez-Alemán aren't only small business owners--they're lawyers. And Martínez-Alemán continues to operate a business litigation practice upstairs.

Credit: KARE 11
Fearless Lawtte, Motion Granted, and Ex Parte are a few of the legally-themed drinks.

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"We wanted this business to be an extension of ourselves, versus trying to branch off and sell stuff we’re not acquainted with," said Martínez-Alemán. "We’re acquainted with the law. We’re acquainted with coffee. So we just sell what we are already used to because we can speak to that."

Their drink names speak to that as well. A latte called "Motion Granted" features sweet coconut, "because there’s no better thing than to have your, or your client’s, motion be granted," Martínez-Alemán said.

"Ex Parte" features coffee, lavender, and French vanilla flavors, but no milk. 

"The Ex Parte in the law means that only one of the parties is present, and the other one is absent," Martínez-Alemán said. "In this case, only the coffee is present and the milk is gone. You are the judge, hanging out with coffee and lavender. But no milk present."

There's also "Fearless Lawtte" and "Cold Call."

The couple says business has been faring well since their June opening. They said there's typically a line out of the door on Fridays and Saturdays. Soon, they plan to open an indoor seating area, which will be in the same space as their mercadito, or "little market."

Credit: Courtesy of Ofelia Ponce
Ofelia Ponce and Inti Martínez-Alemán married in the U.S. (L), and first dated in Honduras (R).

"We have special Latin American products," Ponce said. "Latinos that live here in the United states that have started their own companies, like we have, so we have products that they have sourced. We have tried these products."

Ponce hopes their new business, a dream come true, inspires other entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams.

"Don't be afraid," she said. "Don't be afraid, and do it."

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