By James Miranda
Coffee is tradition in Ethiopia and no one knows this better than Selamawit Wieland-Tesfaye. Her grandmother’s coffee tree in the backyard sowed the seeds for her business, Mimi’s Coffee House, in Mount Kisco.
The 38-year-old, also known as Mimi, grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where her and her grandmother often grew and picked coffee beans off the tree. The beans were washed, roasted, grinded and brewed into coffee.
“Coffee is like a big thing in Ethiopia, they drink it three times a day,” said Wieland-Tesfaye, who settled in Mount Kisco after arriving in the United States in 1995 and now lives in Irvington. “But I just grew up with drinking coffee and knowing a lot about coffee, and then once I got a job, I just liked the whole social aspect of it and getting to know people that are coming there every day.”
Her first 15 years in America were spent working in the restaurant business – first at Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua and then at the old Winston’s Coffee House in Armonk. Her Ethiopian roots mixed with her work at Winston’s spawned a vision of owning a coffee house one day, but stiff competition, including from the chains, saturated the market at the time.
Instead, Wieland-Tesfaye opted to open an Ethiopian restaurant in 2010 called Lalibela at 37 S. Moger Ave. since there weren’t any authentic Ethiopian restaurants in Westchester.
The idea of opening a coffee house, however, kept percolating. She noticed that her customers at Lalibela continuously mentioned that there weren’t any independently owned and operated coffee shops in Mount Kisco. A space connected by a hallway to Lalibela opened in 2015 and remained vacant long enough for Wieland-Tesfaye to jump at the opportunity.
“(It) stayed empty for a couple of years; but I remember coming to work every day thinking, oh my God, if somebody rented that space and took the sign down how disappointed I would be,’” said Wieland-Tesfaye. “I want it to be a place for where the community can come to meet a friend, you can go on your own and read a book or get to know people there.”
She opened Mimi’s Coffee House on Jan. 14, offering everything that you can find at a coffee house – fresh-ground and roasted coffee, handmade food and baked goods. It caters to everyone’s want and need and also offers certain types of milk and cream such as hemp, oat, almond, soy, regular and half-and-half. There is also crossover between Mimi’s and Lalibela, which Wieland-Tesfaye believes makes her coffee shop stand out from the others.
“There’s nothing around, for at least half of Westchester, so this is a really good location, but you’re either all the way down to Pleasantville or you’re in the city at Irving Farm,” said Shira Adler, a South Salem resident. “I think that, especially in this day and age, economy and culture, it’s incredibly important to support local, small businesses.”
The local aspect is what Wieland-Tesfaye captures. Nearly all of her products are purchased from Westchester businesses. She also plans on hosting events such as open mic nights and poem nights and she hopes to introduce a line of smoothies and Açaí drinks, juices derived from Acai berries.
“From the feedback I’ve gotten so far, the future is great and I’m happy to have the support and the love that I have from people that knew me from the restaurant or just came to the coffee shop and were very impressed,” Wieland-Tesfaye said. “That’s what I’ve heard was needed in Mount Kisco.”
Mimi’s Coffee House is located on 37 S. Moger Ave. in Mount Kisco. It’s open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 914-864-1646 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.