IOWA CITY — When Jacqueline Milian decided to open her new business, Mammitas Coffee and Flowers by Jacqueline, she wasn’t sure it would work. But she was excited to try.
“I originally planned to just have a flower shop, but I wanted to do something different to get people in,” she said. “I know flowers, but didn’t really know coffee ... I just took a leap of faith.”
A couple of weeks ago she opened the doors at the coffee shop in a small storefront in downtown Iowa City, with the official grand opening celebration scheduled for Saturday. Getting the business going has been a family affair.
Her youngest daughter, Analycia Ortega, had experience working at a coffee shop and comes in to help her in the mornings before school. Another daughter, Angelina Ortega, is helping with digital efforts, and her son, Carlos Diaz, did the woodwork and signage for the shop. Her youngest son, Jaime Milian, 11, comes in while she’s working; they made him a space to hang out in the basement. Her husband, Erick Milian, is often there as well, as is her mother, Teresa Sotomayor, who ran a flower shop in Yuba, California, for 20 years.
The shop is named for Sotomayor, in a way.
Mammita is what Jacqueline Milian called her grandmother and is what her children call Sotomayor. It is also what Milian’s seven grandchildren call her.
The space is small and cozy, with an electric fireplace and a couple of tables in the front seating area, decorative fake flower arrangements on the chandeliers and a small coffee counter and pastry case.
“I like making things pretty. I love things pretty because I’m girlie. I love adding flowers to everything. Everything needs bling,” Milian said.
Behind the coffee shop is the flower shop, with a cooler of flower arrangements and a room where Milian will hold consultations for things like weddings, funerals and quinceaneras.
The Milians previously lived in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and moved to Iowa four years ago for Erick Milian’s job. They live in Coralville.
“We came from the beach to the snow, but we fell in love with the people,” Jacqueline Milian said. “We hate the weather, love the people.”
She attends Life Church in Coralville and said both her faith and support from church members and have been instrumental in opening the business.
“There were a lot of people who believed in me to make this happen. It’s literally a blessing,” she said.
A door mat as customers enter the shop proclaims, “Totally blessed and incredibly thankful.”
“That is literally how I feel about this coffee shop,” Milian said. “My pastor said, ‘Go after something so great it’s destined to fail unless God intervenes.’”
In Florida, she had managed dental practices, but decided she wanted to start her own business.
“I wanted something to leave my children,” she said.
She originally started the flower shop out of her garage, with the idea for coffee coming later. She wanted it to be something special.
“For the coffee shop, I wanted it to have me in it, to have a Latin vibe, to throw our heritage in there,” she said. “We just want to keep the Latin culture going.”
She is originally from Nicaragua and El Salvador, and her husband is from Guatemala.
One of her signature offerings is a horchata latte. Horchata is a sweet rice milk-based cold drink popular in Mexico. For her lattes, Milian makes a warm version, combined with espresso and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. The menu also features a caramel-flavored dulce de leche latte, as well as other coffee and espresso drinks, tea, Abuelita’s brand hot chocolate and smoothies. In the future, she plans to add energy drinks as well as Cuban-style coffee.
The pastry case features treats she gets daily from a Mexican bakery in West Liberty.
“I didn’t want to have a scone or a blueberry muffin you can have at every coffee shop, so I have pan dulce (sweet bread),” she said. “You should dip the bread in the drink. I tell people to take off the lid.”
If You Go
• What: Mammitas Coffee and Flowers by Jacqueline
• Where: 224 S. Linn St., Iowa City
• Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
• Details: (319) 569-1067
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