In the shadow of the Kansas City skyline, new entrepreneurial energy is brewing in Wyandotte County, the childhood home of Leah Hermida.
“I knew the community really well,” Hermida said from her pandemic-opened, Turner-based coffee shop, The Windmill KC, noting she grew up in the city before eventually relocating to Overland Park.
“I worked locally [in recent years] at Bank Midwest on Shawnee Drive and I would stop and get coffee every day — even twice a day sometimes,” she recalled, noting a slight but constant craving for caffeine that often had her driving around the metro in search of her next foam-filled fix.
“There was just nothing in this area. I would tell myself, ‘If no one opens a coffee shop in the next year, I’m going to.’ And, sure enough, year after year after year there was nothing.”
With the help of her parents and teenage son, Eli, Hermida decided it was time to make good on her promise, last August. She opened The Windmill in a storefront directly across from the Turner Recreation Center on South 55th Street — a perfectly-percolated hub for coffee and community, she said.
“It could bring me to tears to think about how supportive the community has been,” Hermida said, noting neighbors have eagerly welcomed the small coffee shop and its mouthwatering menu of pastries, breakfast burritos, and handcrafted drinks — all locally made.
Because the business is less than a year old, accessing financial assistance and resources for entrepreneurs impacted by the pandemic has been a hurdle for Hermida, making such community support all the more meaningful.
“We didn’t expect to be this busy so soon, but we are grateful. … Without the community showing up day after day — we wouldn’t be here without them,” she said, noting support from volunteers who’ve stepped in behind the coffee bar as she works toward making her first hire — a gift that’s shown her just how much the business was needed in the area.
Resources like The Toolbox — which recently launched in KCK — have also offered much-appreciated guidance, Hermida said, specifically thanking Gabe Munoz, Forward Cities team member and local director of the ESHIP Communities program, both partners of The Toolbox.
“[He] has been phenomenal. He has brought to our attention resources. … He keeps saying, ‘Get to one year and I’ll help you apply for these,” she said, noting further assistance in getting her business off the ground comes from Angela Markely, district 6 commissioner for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas.
“I don’t know what we would do without her. She has helped me with so many obstacles along the way.”
Arguably more valuable to Hermida than the success of her brewing business: the way it’s strengthened her bond with her son, she added.
“After school, he cleans the shop,” she said, noting baseball practice is the only activity that limits her son from lending a hand. “It’s taught him so much responsibility and he’s my biggest fan.”
And on days when owning her own business is tougher than others, words of affirmation and a push to keep going are never far behind.
“He’s the reason why we’re where we are at today. He’ll say, ‘I know you can do this mom,’ and he’s always encouraging me. We have our own struggles with a 14-year-old in the house … but I’m just so thankful we balance each other out.”
As The Windmill continues to grow — establishing itself with a mission to promote unity and diversity through coffee — Hermida is hopeful the business can continue to shine a light on family values, good conversations, and great coffee.
The business soon hopes to construct a back patio to allow for more space for guests and to create a more comfortable environment for social distancing.
“We have a cyclist group that comes through and they say how they would love to meet in Turner because that’s where some of them are from, but they have to go to other places that offer outdoor seating,” she explained of growing needs and ways she hopes to deliver the ultimate customer experience, noting she’d love to connect with volunteers interested in helping get the build off the ground.
“The No. 1 thing I’m hearing from customers is that there’s not enough space. … I would love for it to be kind of a community project. The back patio is my biggest desire right now and what would help me [grow.]”
Hermida’s commitment to community won’t stop with Turner. She hopes to connect her family’s mission work with the business in the future, she added.
“My parents are missionaries [and] my dad’s a pastor, so we love to do missions trips. We’ve had to put those on hold for a little bit, but we do at some point want to close the shop for a week and [serve] in Guatemala,” Hermida explained, detailing a plan which would see proceeds from The Windmill benefiting the effort and its goal to provide food, comfort, and a church service to Guatemalan locals.
“It would be my dream if we could do that in the next year or so,” she said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.