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?
My mom was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, and my dad’s family is all rooted in Missouri!
What brought you and/or your family to Kansas City?
We originally came back to Missouri once my parents left the service. Mom worked in healthcare and dad joined the family woodworking business. After I graduated from UCM with my bachelor’s degree, I came to KC to work!
When did you start working at Cafe Cà Phê and how did you get connected?
I’ve been following Cafe Cà Phê since 2020, and finally got to courage to reach out in March to work with them!
Cafe Cà Phê is all about the culture. How do you see your culture fitting in?
My background might be a little different from the other AANHPI [Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander] women here. I grew up quite removed from the culture. Not that it wasn’t there, but I just grew up in a very white place lol I’m hoping most to learn more ABOUT my culture, and hopefully contribute a different perspective of what that culture looks like 🙂
How has working at Cafe Cà Phê impacted your connection to the Kansas City AAPI community?
Reaching out to Cafe Cà Phê is probably the first direct step I’ve made myself to connect more with the AAPI community here in KC. More than anything I want to learn from and connect with more Asian makers, creatives, and businesses. I can already tell in the first month of working with Jackie, Jessica, and Phon directly how much I’m going to be able to grow within the community. Everyone is so welcoming and supportive.
Can you share something about your culture that maybe our readers wouldn’t know about?
Honestly, I don’t have a great answer to this like I said, my window to the culture has been so narrow just because of the demographic I grew up in. I know there are so many amazing aspects of Vietnamese culture, and I’m excited to learn more about it 🙂
Call my relatives more, see my friends more, spend a little more at my favorite Asian businesses, make more room for allyship and activism, etc.
What are three fun facts about you?
So funny how this question seems so much harder than the others. I’m an intermediate knitter, I played the clarinet for 10 years, and I love video games (especially Destiny 2).
What’s your Cafe Cà Phê drink order?
I’m a Saigon stan, can’t beat the classics.
What’s your theme song?
OOF. Gotta be somewhere between “Gold Steps” by Neck Deep or “Already Dead” by Puppet. Or “YOUNG” by Grayscale? Geez.
How can we support your community/culture in Kansas City?
Mostly I just hope people remember to create space for people like me who are just now finding their culture, whatever it may be. We’re all at different stages in our identity every day, and it’s important not to alienate people who are still learning or maybe a little late to the party 🙂
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.