A fan of Mexican professional wrestling has become the first business entrepreneur to occupy the city of Tigard's new "opportunity cafe." The cafe is a business collaboration between the city and Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon, also known as MESO.
Israel Martinez officially opened his cafe, El Cuadrilátero, the city's first business incubator, in a 400-square-foot space in the foyer of the Tigard Public Library in October.
El Cuadrilátero means ring, or specifically the ring used by wrestlers competing in lucha libre or Mexican professional wrestling.
"The idea for the opportunity cafe began when patrons suggested a cafe space as their top improvement to the library in our 2019 annual survey, and we committed to the project when it was added to our 2021-2026 strategic plan," Halsted Bernard, Tigard's library director, said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, Nov. 15. "We hope the library will be the place where Israel builds on the foundation offered by the opportunity cafe program to gain the knowledge, experience and devoted clientele to outgrow this space and establish a presence in our greater Tigard community."
MESO is renting the cafe space under a two-year lease. The agency is supporting Martinez, providing him with ongoing business advising, credit building and an individual development savings account, according to city officials.
The plan is that within two years, Martinez will be ready to move into outside retail space, the library space will be rented out for use by another fledgling business, and the cycle of incubation and growth will continue.
Cobi Lewis, executive director at Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon, which serves historically underserved entrepreneurs, immigrants and entrepreneurs of color, told those gathered that her organization wanted to make sure to make Martinez's dream of owning a cafe come true.
"This incubator model will be a successful model for new businesses to experience running a smaller venue before they venture into a larger venue or storefront, and we hope to see that one day, Israel will have his own major storefront here in the Tigard area in the next couple years," said Lewis.
Shikha Goel, a Washington County business development specialist for MESO, assisted Martinez in developing the menu and learning about customer service. Goal also helped out with the food licensing Martinez needs to operate his business.
Tigard Mayor Jason Snider said he was happy to see Martinez's new cafe, which will serve specialty coffee drinks and other beverages such as fresh cantaloupe and pineapple water, sandwiches, pastries, and more, open at the library, filling that space for the first time in more than four years.
He said the opportunity cafe program is not just about throwing an entrepreneur into a space, but making sure they are successful as well.
"When one entrepreneur leaves the program, another one will have an opportunity to start their business in the same space and the process repeats itself," said Snider. "One requirement of Israel, and future entrepreneurs, is that they continue in the business advising program with MESO to receive the guidance they need to grow their business while they rent the space."
"I would like to thank everyone personally for this special day," Martinez told those gathered for the ribbon-cutting, expressing gratitude to Tigard and MESO for providing him the opportunity for starting up a small businesses.
Martinez said the name of his café comes from his love of lucha libre, or professional Mexican wrestling, which he has enjoyed since he was a child.
Martinez collects lucha libre masks. He has about 30 of them, almost all of them signed by wrestlers.
Martinez first came to Tigard in 2006, where he attended Tigard High School. He moved away for a time but returned to the city in 2014.
Lloyd Purdy, the city's economic development manager, said he's excited to have Martinez's cafe up and running "not just to provide an amenity to library guests, but to treat the space as a business incubator."
"Starting and running a successful business is as much about preparedness as it is about passion. While entrepreneurs must take some calculated risks to achieve their dreams, the most successful small businesses are those that begin with a safety net of support," Purdy said in a news release. "The opportunity cafe provides that support system."
El Cuadrilátero is open Tuesdays through Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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