“What if nobody shows
up—what am I going to do?”
That was Luiz Oliveira’s fear
the morning he opened his
new Las Vegas coffee bar,
Sambalatte, last September.
“It was probably the most
stress I can remember having in my life,” he recalls.
Oliveira, who hails from
Brazil, often dreamed of
opening a truly great coffee
bar during the two decades
he worked for major hotel
chains, and he spent years
outlining a preliminary
business plan. Then, in
2009, at the peak of the
recession, he was laid off
from his job as director of
food and beverages at a high-end Las Vegas hotel. Unemployed,
but tempted by cheap rentals in
a plunging real estate market, he
decided to act. After enlisting the
help of a co-investor, he drained his
savings to set up shop 8 miles from
the busy Strip.
A Sambalatte coffee takes two
full minutes to prepare: Each is
individually brewed from locally
roasted beans and served in a por-
celain cup. Customers learn to be
patient. Starbucks this is not.
Sambalatte has won a loyal base of
regulars, and Oliveira knows them all
by name. And though he works 14-
hour days, he loves every minute. In
the past, he says, “the reward always
went to the company. Now, when
I hear a customer say, ‘Man, I love
Sambalatte,’ it makes me feel good
about myself.” —Christina Ianzito
You can learn a lot about lattes and the coffee biz at schools around the country. In
the notoriously caffeinated Northwest, you’ll find Portland’s American Barista &
Coffee School (800-655-3955; coffeeschool.org), which boasts a “state-of-the-art
espresso lab,” and the Seattle Barista Academy, which has workshops for both pros
and aficionados (800-927-3286, ext. 203; seattlebaristaacademy.com). More barista
training: PT’s Coffee Roasting Co., in Topeka, Kansas (888-678-5282; ptscoffee.com),
and Intelligentsia Coffee in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles (888-945-9786;
intelligentsiacoffee.com). — C. I.
Planning to fulfill a longtime dream?
Let us be there. Go to aarp.org/yourstory.