In a world of cookie-cutter retail chains, it's refreshing to visit a shop that focuses on specialty tastes. Cafecito, a new coffee bar in downtown Hanford, is such a place.

Entering its second month in operation, Cafecito in Hanford's Fast Plaza, offers fresh coffee drinks, teas, smoothies and protein shakes. Owned by Elizabeth Moreno of Fresno and her brother, Carlos Contreras of Avenal, Cafecito's decor is classy yet unpretentious.

Contreras explained the coffee bar makes smaller batches, which he said are preferable for enhancing the flavor of coffee beans. The shop sources its beans from smaller growers, primarily in Columbia and Mexico, he said, noting they are fresher than many places that rely on large distributors.

Contreras and his sister also own Fulton Street Coffee in Fresno.

"The reason we came to Hanford," he said, "is we want to share what specialty coffee is all about."

Typically found in larger cities like San Francisco, Contreras said it's unusual to find a shop like Cafecito in smaller places like Hanford because it's expensive to source fresh beans from South and Central America and parts of Africa, like Ethiopia, noted for their superb coffee beans.

"We do direct fair trade with farmers in Mexico and Columbia," he said, noting Fulton Street Coffee roast its own beans. "We don't use a broker. We're expanding to do more fair trade with countries around the world."

Contreras emphasized using "fair trade" farmers ensures workers are paid fair wages.

"Our coffee is more expensive, but we pay a fair price to growers," he said. "These are hard-working people who, most of the time, aren't getting what they deserve.

"It's important for us to respect them," Contreras added. "And by 'respect them' I mean give them a fair wage."

Perhaps reinforcing the notion that police officers love coffee, Contreras trained to become a California Highway Patrol officer before he entered the food-and-beverage hospitality business when he was 20.

"I was in the CHP Academy at the time," he said, explaining he's been in the pizzeria restaurant business for more than 13 years. "I broke my ACL. I needed to do something with my life and I was surrounded by entrepreneurship in my family."

After an opportunity arose to open a take-and-bake pizza place, he and his eventual partner jumped at the chance. Five years later, they decided to install an espresso machine.

"That's where my love for coffee came about," said Contreras, crediting his current business partner, Omar, with inspiring the idea to open Fulton Street Coffee in Fresno.

"That's where all these [business] relationships came from," he said. "Omar had the greatest part in creating all these relationships" with coffee growers in South and Central America.

Recalling his original dream of becoming a cop, Contreras said Fulton Street Coffee is right next to the sheriff's station in Fresno.

"Some of my dearest friends are police officers," he said. 

Noting that Cafecito employs five people, Contreras said he foresees business will pick up as the winter months subside and the shop adds a full lunch menu including soups, salads and sandwiches.

"We really felt like Hanford needed a specialty coffee shop," he said. "When we saw an opportunity arrived here, it was the perfect location."

Contreras, who got his start with a pizza parlor he still owns and operates in Avenal, announced the opening of a full kitchen at Cafecito in about a week. The coffee bar will soon be open until 6 p.m., he said, adding they'll be offering an online app to accept advance orders.

Once a customer inputs their favorite specialty coffee or health drink into the app, all they have to do is submit their name and when they want to pick up their order through the app, Contreras explained.

Local business owners have expressed their support for Cafecito, the co-owner said. 

"A lot of them have become customers," he added. "Small businesses support each other. I was aware of [that] because in Fresno we get that same level of community support."

Noting that Cafecito's busiest hours are from 8 to 10 a.m., Contreras said he anticipates business will pick up at lunchtime after the kitchen opens.

"We're expecting it to be busy once we have a full menu available and have customizable options, such as a phone app," he said.

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