When Leah Alles and Joseph Diaz Aleman first opened their dream café (and side cart) on a Caribbean island named Vieques (off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast), they never could have imagined what was in store for them. First it was a hurricane, and then it was the pandemic. Their business, Rising Roost, was one of the only café offerings of the island of 7000 people. Their business was almost completely tourist-driven, which all but dried up after the two tragic occurrences.
At the same time, a move to the island was only supposed to be short-term. It was after they had their first child, Jack, that they realized that they needed to come up with a new plan. Life was getting more serious, and they needed to pivot. They had family in North Carolina and Buffalo… and Buffalo won out.
“My husband (born and raised in San Juan) loves Buffalo more than I do,” said Leah [laughing]. “I grew up here. All my friends and family are here. My son has his grandparents here, and cousins. Originally, we moved to the island because we wanted a break. We were young. We ended up being there longer than anticipated. Then the hurricane happened. It changed life completely. Everything was different after that. And the pandemic – no one was allowed to visit the island. We are so happy to have had that experience though – living in a non-English speaking community, with visitors from all over the world. It actually helped with our business plan for Buffalo, although we needed to change gears… we didn’t have to broadcast that we were in business on the island, because we were the only coffee shop around.”
When I asked Leah if she had had a chance to meet Stuart Green, the owner of the downtown Braymiller Market, she told me that is was one of the deciding factors in opening at 111 Genesee Street.
“I’ve been making runs over to Braymiller,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons that I’m OK with this location. Downtown is still getting there, but it’s on its way. Braymiller is a huge step for the community. We need places like Braymiller. My stepmom just leased an apartment at The Hotel @ The Lafayette because she likes to cook, and she can walk across the street to the market. She also wanted to be in the city and close to us. She walks across the street for her groceries and gets everything that she needs. We’re all big supporters.”
As for supporting Jacks Corner Café, there are a couple of things that you need to know, starting with the coffee.
“It’s a thousand percent about our coffee,” said Leah. “We encourage people to try our espresso drinks. It’s European-style coffee, roasted by Gustos in Puerto Rico. A woman yesterday told me that it was the best coffee that she ever had. For food, you must try the Grand Slam breakfast sandwich, which is served on our homemade English muffin. Then there’s the RR Bowl (rice and black Beas topped with fresh avocado, pico de Gallo, manchego cheese, and a fried egg. Served with 2 corn tortillas) – we served it at the Rising Roost (RR) back on the island. It was our best seller, and we’re hoping that it will be a big hit in Buffalo.”
So far, Jacks Corner Café is a big hit in my book. Currently, they are undergoing a soft opening, weekdays 7am -2pm, while they test the waters. The better they do, the more hours they will have. So be sure to support this local enterprise the next time that you venture out to for a cup of coffee, or something to eat in the heart of downtown.
Jacks Corner Café
111 Genesee Street (corner of Genesee and Oak)
Buffalo, New York 14203