Small Business Spotlight: Ana De Los Angeles, Owner of Manjares
The profile that follows is the second in a series of spotlights on small businesses in the Greater New Haven Latine community. It is based on an interview conducted with Ana in Spanish.
Nestled in the heart of New Haven’s Westville section lies a cozy café/tapas bar that exudes warmth and culinary charm. Manjares, owned by Ana De Los Angeles, has been delighting customers with freshly made dishes for the past 14 years.
Ana's story is one of perseverance and passion. Born in the Dominican Republic, she discovered her love for cooking at an early age under the guidance of her mother and grandmother who taught her everything they knew. Her culinary journey led her to take courses from a Dominican woman in Manhattan, where she learned to make all kinds of cakes and pastries for events.
Upon a visit to New Haven with her husband to visit one of his good friends, Ana fell in love with New Haven, especially the Westville section. Within a year she moved to New Haven through the ArLoW program, an artists’ housing project started by Westville developer Thea Buxbaum that would later help her open her business. Ana was able to make a name for herself as the pastry chef/barista at Lulu’s, a coffee shop that has since closed in East Rock. She worked there for two and half years before opening Manjares.
The idea for Manjares came from a dream of her late father telling her to open her
own cafe and presenting her with the name “Manjares,” which translates to “delicacies.” In 2009, Ana's dream materialized with the opening of Manjares. Despite starting with limited resources and money, she embarked on her journey armed with determination, hard work, and an unwavering enthusiasm. Starting with just a cappuccino machine, two tables, and an oven brought up from her New York apartment, “grano a grano,” little by little, Ana breathed life into her cafe. She also had unwavering support from her community, recounting that all of her regulars from Lulu’s showed up for the opening.
Manjares began as a haven for pastries and high-quality coffee, representing Ana's expertise as a pastry chef. Over time, the cafe's concept evolved to encompass a diverse menu, blending recipes from her Dominican roots with American and Latin influences. Ana's commitment to using fresh, organic ingredients and avoiding excessive fried foods has set Manjares apart as a destination for "comida frescita" — fresh, vibrant, and flavorful cuisine.
While Ana loves everything her café offers, a few items hold special places in her heart. The ginger scones and morning glory muffins have been a “hit” and gained popularity among a lot of customers. The "Manjares Eggs" — a typical Dominican breakfast dish consisting of mangú, yuca, arepa, eggs, cheese, and salami — stands out as a cherished favorite. And of course, the coffee — an essential part of the Manjares experience — continues to win hearts with its exceptional quality.
The thing that Ana enjoys the most about Manjares is the people. She thrives on interactions with patrons of all ages, nurturing conversations and cultivating connections. The joy she derives from seeing familiar faces and the progress Manjares has made since its inception fills her with pride. The cafe, in Ana's eyes, has transformed into an essence, an embodiment of her passion, dedication, and the sense of community she's built.
Reflecting on her journey, Ana offers invaluable advice to aspiring small business owners. She emphasizes the importance of pursuing ventures driven by genuine passion, where the business aligns with one's personal interests. She advises against starting a business solely for financial gain, advocating for a genuine connection to the products or services offered. Ana's experience underscores that owning a restaurant is more than just a job — it's a commitment that requires relentless dedication, a love for cooking, and a genuine desire to serve the community.
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