By Kelcie McKenney
Photos by Travis Young
For Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we teamed up with Catcall magazine to highlight the AAPI team members who make Kansas City’s first Vietnamese coffee shop Cafe Cà Phê possible. Read the intro here, and stick around this week to hear their stories.
What’s your title at Cafe Cà Phê?
Where is your family’s country of origin?
What brought you and/or your family to Kansas City?
Helping my best friend Jackie open the first Vietnamese coffee shop in KCMO, Cafe Cà Phê.
When did you start working at Cafe Cà Phê and how did you get connected?
Jackie and I met doing the national Broadway revival tour of Miss Saigon. I had known that she wanted to start a Vietnamese coffee shop since November 2019. After the pandemic unexpectedly shut down our show for good in March 2020, Jackie called me and asked me if I can move to KC to help her coffee shop.
And I said YES! Then I officially started working for Cafe Cà Phê as a manager in October 2020.
Cafe Cà Phê is all about the culture. How do you see your culture fitting in?
I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. I am an immigrant, and hopefully in the future, will be a mom of a Japanese American. It is fascinating to find similarities in each culture from all over Asia and find complete differences as well. The similarities I find in Vietnamese culture from the Japanese perspective are the respect for elders, parents, and traditions, and there’s spirit in any physical or non-physical things on earth. To me, it is also interesting to see Asian American culture in general as a non-American person.
While it is a Vietnamese coffee shop, Cafe Cà Phê does a wonderful job of bringing out and highlighting our own cultures from different backgrounds. I think it’s great to be able to educate others about Vietnamese coffee in culture in our own words from different perspectives, too!
How has working at Cafe Cà Phê impacted your connection to the Kansas City AAPI community?
I have personally grown so much connection to the Japanese community in Kansas City! They have welcomed me so well. Sharing the same roots and culture with them has made me feel at home and proud.
Working at Cafe Cà Phê has given me the opportunity to educate others about Japanese culture and been given the opportunity to be educated. It is beautiful when we love and respect each other’s culture while we share so much together.
Can you share something about your culture that maybe our readers wouldn’t know about?
There are soooo many! But I will pick one.
Each household has its own family crest called Kamon(家紋). In a very casual way, it is its family’s logo. Each logo means something, and my Koguchi’s family crest is called Sumikiri Kaku ni Sangi(隅切角三木). It looks like three lines in an octagon. The family crest was often used on the roof of the house of the family, but it is now more commonly used on the family grave and embroidered on ceremonial kimono.
What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
It should be every day of our life, but I feel like I’m allowed to be more vocal about how proud I am to be Asian and to carry my heritage.
What are three fun facts about you?
- I love mashed potatoes
- I have two dogs in KC and four dogs and one bird in Tokyo.
- I did not drink coffee till I started working for Cafe Cà Phê.
What’s your Cafe Cà Phê drink order?
The Madoka! It’s a drink with oat milk, matcha, lavender, and a shot of espresso 🙂
What’s your theme song?
“Independent women Pt.1” / Destiny’s Child
How can we support your community/culture in Kansas City?
Get to know our beautiful cultures. And celebrate our cultures WITH us. Support Asian-owned businesses.
Cafe Cà Phê’s brick and mortar is scheduled to open in mid-June. Learn more about their fundraising here.
Kelcie McKenney (she/her) is a writer, editor, and artist who is passionate about feminism, local activism, queer representation, and strengthening community. You can find Kelcie on Instagram with #kcdaddy, where she talks about her three-legged cat Luna, thrift finds, and ways to overthrow the patriarchy.
Travis Young (he/him) is a Kansas City based photographer with roots in photojournalism and visual storytelling. He enjoys using film cameras to help him process, celebrate, and challenge his understanding in topics of race, gender, status, and mental health. When not behind a camera, you can find him creating things in 3D, obsessing over your grandmother’s dope Volvo Wagon from the 80’s, or getting lost in some tedious cleaning activity because he is a relentless Virgo.
Photo studio courtesy of Travis Carroll.