Lattes, cappucinos and hope have returned to Bushwick’s Cafe Moca thanks to a new espresso machine that arrived almost two months after the cafe’s original machine was stolen in a January break-in.

“The espresso machine is the heart of a coffee shop,” said Josefina Hernández, co-owner of the Central Ave. cafe. “I would say 65% of our sales are from the espresso machine.”

The robbery wasn’t the only challenge the family-owned business has had to face: In late 2021, the cafe had to close due to staffing struggles with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and family losses. In Brooklyn, 41% of small businesses report dealing with similar labor shortages.

When Hernandez and her family finally reopened the shop on Dec. 18, 2021, “Everybody was excited to come back.” But then, just two weeks later, the theft occurred.

The family-run cafe endured almost 2 months without an espresso machine. Credit: Katey St John / BK Reader

“When we opened this shop in the middle of the pandemic, we knew we would have a lot of challenges … but we never thought we’d go through this,” Hernández said.

Without an espresso machine, a decision faced the family: to close the cafe until they replaced the machine, or to stay open without it.  

“If we close this coffee shop again, people are not going to trust us,” Hernandez said, of her decision. “At the beginning, I was really mad and sad and disappointed, because this shouldn’t happen.” 

Josefina Hernández behind the counter at Cafe Moca. Credit: Katey St John / BK Reader

The family did decide to close the location, one of two they own, but then quickly reopened seven days later — even without an espresso machine.

During the nearly two months without the machine, Hernández said her customers wished to support Cafe Moca, with many asking if they could contribute to a GoFundMe. Because insurance covered the loss of her machine and she was recently able to purchase a new machine, she said she chose not to create one.

“We’re happy, and the people are happy. We’re just excited for the weather to be warm to enjoy the backyard,” Hernández said. 

Josefina enjoying Cafe Moca’s backyard. Credit: Katey St John / BK Reader

This summer, Hernandez is planning to renovate the cafe’s outdoor backyard space and host events for the community. 

“We love our community, we love Bushwick,” said Hernández, who has lived in the neighborhood for over 27 years. She estimates she knows around 75% of all her customers’ names. 

“They say things happen for a reason … You have to take the positive thing that comes out of the negative thing.”

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