The married duo behind Anchor Island Coffee already knew they’d have to defy expectations for their tropical-themed breakfast spot to succeed on Troost. And then came COVID.
“Just two weeks after we opened in March 2020, we closed,” said Mike Hastings, who owns the shop with husband Armando Vasquez. “By May, we were able to try again. We knew we still needed to give it a shot. We’d done all this work, and we had to see it through — to see if we could get anything out of all our effort.”
Today, Anchor Island Coffee is thriving — having survived the pandemic, early tussles with uncooperative lenders and landlords in Johnson County, and a skeptical neighborhood — with plans to expand. The shop is set to be one of four “coffee kickoff” sites for Global Entrepreneurship Week Kansas City, which begins 8 a.m. Monday, Nov. 8.
Click here to learn more about the coffee kickoff events across Kansas City at Anchor Island, Kinship Coffee, Cafe Corazon and Headrush.
The weeklong GEWKC event series — more than 100 workshops, events and courses presents Nov. 8-14 through virtual and in-person formats — is the metro’s largest celebration of entrepreneurship.
Coffee kickoff events launch the week at four locations across the city. Throughout the week, competitions like the AltCap Your Biz Competition showcase entrepreneurs taking their businesses to the next level, as well as a Comeback KC Ventures Demo Day where business solutions that have emerged in response to COVID-19 will be highlighted.
Click here for a full GEWKC event listing.
Inspired by previous homes not far from the ocean — Hastings in Phoenix with quick access to Mexican and California beaches; Vasquez in the tropical climate of Guatemala — as well as vacations together to Florida, the couple launched Anchor Island’s voyage in hopes of bringing those nostalgic feelings to Kansas City, Hastings said.
The corner spot is imbued with island vibes thanks to a colorful collage of paintings, vacation photos, tropical plants and decor. Boogie boards from ocean adventures offer a glimpse behind the scenes for Hastings and Vasquez, but the tides haven’t always been kind, they said.
Attempts to establish the shop in Overland Park, then the Crossroads Arts District, failed to take anchor. Ultimately, the couple found a home for their venture at 41st and Troost — at the former site of both Urban Cafe’s and Dream Muscle Coffee’s first physical locations.
“Without big name investors or a trust fund to back us up, we headed to the part of town where we knew we would be better welcomed,” Hastings said.
But previous high turnover at the well-trafficked intersection meant some customers would be easier to win over than others, he admitted.
“This location has changed businesses several times, so people have learned to kind of ignore it. They’ve been waiting to see if we’d stick around,” Hastings said. “Now they’re coming in because we’ve survived and become part of this community.”
And becoming ingrained in the local neighborhood helped Hastings and Vasquez realize the community needed more than coffee, he added, noting the area’s reputation as a food desert and ongoing partnerships with Kanbe’s Market that allow Anchor Island to be part of a wave of change.
Click here to explore Anchor Island.
“To meet the local need for food, we took the business one step further, we developed a food menu focused on freshly made food,” Hastings said. “When approaching our food menu, we choose to go with healthier options, removing as many preservatives and processing as possible.”
Of course, the owners also want visitors to their tropical getaway to indulge in tastes that helped shape both the coffee shop and the couple’s relationship, they said.
“Our breakfast burrito is inspired by the great food in Tampa, Florida, filled with chorizo and corn strips, big enough to share or eat yourself as a big breakfast,” Hastings said, noting Vasquez’s restaurant background.
And while the shop offers traditional espresso, lattes, and cappuccinos, both Hastings and Vasquez also recognize the opportunity to provide unique experiences for the neighborhood customers — from specialty mochas and horchata latte to green espresso and Anchor Island’s signature “Dirty Sunrise,” which mixes orange juice and coffee.
The duo is determined to make Anchor Island everybody’s coffee shop, Hastings emphasized. And it’s working.
“At the end of the day, we are Kansas City’s first tropical coffee shop, LGBT, Latino and American owned ma-and-pop shop,” he said. “Troost has been a great blessing to us, allowing us to not only open at the beginning of COVID, but to remain open and continue to grow. There truly are many great people in the area trying to make it in this world, one day at a time. Without the neighborhood’s love, help and support, we simply would not be here today.”
Click here to follow Anchor Island on Instagram.
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.