By Kevin Collison
A Southern California actor marooned in Kansas City after Covid cancelled her Miss Saigon Broadway tour has taken on a new role, creating a coffee shop in Columbus Park that celebrates Asian-American culture.
“I always had an idea of opening a coffee shop but didn’t think for another 10 years,” said Jackie Nguyen. “I followed my heart and felt Kansas City didn’t have anyplace I felt I belonged.
“There was no place like a community center or book store for Asians and Asian-Americans. In Southern California, there are a lot of places.”
So last weekend, after operating out of a coffee truck for a couple years, Nguyen opened Café Cà Phê at 916 E. Fifth St. in the heart of the Columbus Park neighborhood.
Once the first home for many Italian immigrants, the compact district of small, older homes and apartment buildings tucked together beneath the steeple of Holy Rosary Church later welcomed many Vietnamese newcomers.
“Columbus Park used to be Little Saigon,” Nguyen said, “but there was no coffee shop. I didn’t want to gentrify the area, I wanted to enhance what’s already there.”
Her new place was off to a thriving start this week with a diverse clientele sipping coffee, typing on their lap tops and enjoying conversation. It already had become a hub for the neighborhood just days after opening.
Nguyen and her partner, Noah Gouldsmith, were both actors with the Miss Saigon tour. When the pandemic hit and the show stopped, they were invited to live with Gouldsmith’s family in Kansas City.
What originally was thought to be a temporary stay shifted into permanence as Nguyen decided to embrace the local scene and add her own Asian experience from California.
“Every single thing in the shop from the coffee beans to the merchandise and baked goods support small Asian businesses,” she said. “These flavors are part of our culture.
“We’re also creating events that are open and inclusive, pop-events to market small businesses and other events.”
They include celebrating such holidays as the Lunar New Year, Autumn Moon Festival and holding shows for local Asian-American artists.
The menu includes a variety of specialty Vietnamese coffee drinks as well as classic European and American coffees. Munchies include Hot Cheetos and donuts.
Café Cà Phê is open daily except Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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