told to Pamela Gerloff
from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Kristi DeMaiolo moved
to Houston, Texas after college. She worked for 10 years
in corporate banking, earned an MBA, then worked for Enron
for a year before its collapse. While in Houston, Kristi
tasted her first kolache [ko-la-chee], a bun made from sweet
dough of Czechoslovakian origin. "In Houston," Kristi says,
"kolaches are as common as bagels and donuts." When her
job at Enron ended, she returned to Beaver, Pennsylvania,
and, in early 2003, opened Café Kolache, which specializes
in serving the pastries she loves. Here, she discusses her
café and its effect on relationships in the community. [
See also "
of Business: Revitalizing Community Relationships
as this sounds, I wanted the café to have a "Cheers" atmosphere,
to be a place "where everybody knows your name." And that
is the way it is. When we see our regulars coming, we automatically
prepare their favorite drink and what they like to eat-and
we do know most of their names. When there's a line of people,
often many of them will know each other; but even if they
don't, they'll join in someone else's conversation. People
comment on what a friendly environment we have.
tried to create that kind of atmosphere in different ways-from
the people we hire to the colors and décor. We try to make
everyone feel welcome: from senior citizens to business
people to the high school students who meet here most Fridays
before school. The café's back room is used for a variety
of purposes, including Bible studies, wedding and baby showers,
business meetings, and community events.
as I love kolaches, for me this is not just about our product.
I love this business because it provides a place of comfort
and community. Nothing makes me happier than to walk from
my office into the café and hear it buzzing with chatter.
couple comes in every single day. They love coming here-for
the food, the fellowship, and the relaxing atmosphere. I
get joy from seeing them watch other people. It's more than
just peoplewatching; the joy comes from seeing the community
that we've become.
are two brothers in town who come to the café almost every
afternoon. One has Parkinson's disease. Sometimes he has
bad days and has difficulty ordering, but we're sensitive
to his condition and can communicate with him. We bring
a smile to his face and the brothers bring smiles to ours.
We look forward to their daily visits. It's a reciprocal
friendship that has developed among us all.
support local authors, musicians, and artists. A section
of the café is used for book signings with local authors
and features local musicians on Saturday nights. In another
area we display the work of local artists. I'm happy to
be able to feature our local talent and creativity.
café has been a blessing to me. I work very long days, but
I love every minute of it. It's much more meaningful to
me than my former career. I'm thankful that it has become
a gathering place within this community and that I'm able
to provide an environment where employees can have fun while
working hard to serve this community. When I originally
sought financing, one banker asked me, "Why do you want
to do this?" Here I was investing everything I had, with
no guarantees. It was because I wanted to see the daily
impact of my work. In the corporate world I saw only a small
component of a big picture. Being a business owner in a
small town opens up the opportunity to see results- to see
relationships that are created every day through this business
and to give back to the area where I was raised.
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