For Columbia natives and travelers alike, the city’s thriving coffee scene allows any java junkie to find their concoction of choice when on the go. A love of traveling and the community brought the idea of a new cafe to longtime residents Rafael and Itzel Bobea.
“We try to travel as much as time and personal circumstances allow us,” Rafael says, “so going to coffee shops is always a must-do during these travels. It had been inspirational at the time that we decided to start our coffee shop.”
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Rafael came to Columbia in 2011 with the idea of finishing his degree in international business. Instead, he began working in sales at different large companies in town. While Itzel was born in Anaheim, California, she graduated from Hickman High School and earned a surgical technology certificate from the Columbia Area Career Center.
In 2018, Rafael and Itzel opened their first business together, Lola’s Bilingual Daycare Center.
Five years later, the Bobeas have combined other collective passions into their second business. The location on 8th Street is perfect as the couple wanted something distinctive for the downtown scene and a space to create a cozy atmosphere to bring in diverse flavors. Their appreciation of travel is initially apparent in the cafe’s name, La Calle 8 Cafe, which took a few tries before becoming official.
“The Caribbean in me made me remember this big boulevard/street in Miami, Florida — a state that we also like to visit,” Rafael says. “Calle Ocho of Miami is famous for big festivals and full of Cuban and Latino cuisine, so we thought it was going to be the perfect name.”
Combining the vibrant atmosphere of Latin culture and the Spanish translation of the cafe’s actual street name in Columbia was “brilliant, catchy and a great story” when anyone asks for the meaning behind the name. “We wanted to become a landmark,” Rafael says, “so when people ask about the 8th Street in downtown Columbia, they know we are here!”
Each visit to the cafe provides the potential for a memorable experience, whether it’s finding a new favorite food or drink offering — perhaps the dulce de leche latte, their signature drink, or their ham and gouda emparedado — meeting someone new such as any one of their smiling staff or simply soaking in the vibrant and ebullient energy. Guests should expect a space where anyone can meet for work, coffee dates, study sessions, community gatherings and more.
If you are looking to add “fruit” to your diet, the cafe also offers multi- colored, tropical drink options, which can be found on their site under “Aguas Tropicales.” These include the sour gummy agua tropical, strawberry passion fruit, mango dragon fruit and peach mango tropical.
Until they sell out, the food options include an avocado chicken chipotle panini, ham and Swiss cheese croissant and freshly baked muffins.
Ultimately, community drives the Bobeas. Opening a bilingual day care creates connection for younger children, and now opening a Latin-based cafe, especially downtown, expands the connection for the adult population.
“La Calle 8 is more than just a cafe to me,” Rafael says. “It’s my way of bringing people together over amazing coffee and good vibes. I’m all about creating a comfortable community space that feels like a second home.”
Drink and food options are available to order online and pick up in the cafe. The cafe, located at 214 S. 8th St., is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit lacalle8cafe.square.site.