Meet Pancho Chaves, the owner of Cafe Con Leche in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood. Pancho opened Cafe Con Leche with his business partner and bandmate Peprito Vargas in 2012 where they’ve been enjoying authentic Cuban food by day and good music by night. Stop by to try Cuban-pressed sandwiches, empanadas, and maduros in Cafe Con Leche’s bright, beautiful space.
Get to know more about Pancho in this week’s Business Spotlight Q&A.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you start Cafe Con Leche?
Well, to tell you the whole story, […] Pedrito is a percussionist, and I’m a singer, and we were both in the same band. We both opened Cafe Con Leche. Pedrito had a food truck before in North Seattle and then we decided we need[ed] a bigger space. Cafe Con Leche has a room for live music. So we decided, you know, ‘Hey man, why don’t we just get a place where we can have live music with a stage and good sound and light and all of that.’ And then we put the restaurant into one side of it. Pedrito is from Pinar del Rio, and he had all the recipes from his family.
How would you describe your business to someone who has never been?
It’s a fun, family-oriented, Cuban restaurant. We always tell everybody we want people to feel very comfortable. I want them to feel [like Cafe Con Leche] is food from the neighborhood, the way it is in Cuba, the way it is in Peru. You know, you go to a restaurant, it’s a neighborhood restaurant, it’s welcoming. There’s good music, it’s colorful, and the food is delicious. We pride ourselves on buying really good ingredients. When we choose our ingredients, we always try to get the best that we can, fresh.
Why is it important to you and your business that people #SpendLikeItMatters?
It really is for the people who run it, right? I am so proud that, through the pandemic, we were able to provide four full time positions for people who really need it. […] It is so nice to be able to support other people and to see them grow. […] When I talk about my four employees, we went from 20 because we had to close the club. Of my four main employees, my chef, through this job and through our help she bought a house for her mother in El Salvador. The general manager is doing fantastic. She’s about to buy a house and we were able to raise her salary now that we opened up the club. Same with the other two positions, I could see them grow, as people. That’s what I would say: support small businesses because you will actually make a difference in this family’s life. They will be able to grow so maybe their next generation will have bigger opportunities and a better quality of life.