Barrio Barista: Connecting the Community through Coffee

Barrio Barista, located in the westside of San Antonio, serves more than just traditional coffee or sandwiches. The coffeehouse also offers a passion for fostering community and menu items with a westside twist. At the forefront of these efforts are father-son duo, Gilbert DeHoyos Jr. and Gilbert DeHoyos Sr. who both share enthusiasm for coffee and community.

“The passion and doing what you love to do is the most important part of life,” DeHoyos Sr. said. “Serving the community is serving everybody.”

Barrio Barista’s westside location has been in the DeHoyos’ family for over 50 years. Originally purchased in 1968 by the father of DeHoyos Sr., the building began as DeHoyos’ Meat Market. His father was the head butches for H-E-B and bought the property after he retired. After 17 years of success, the meat market eventually closed down, but the property and vision for building community stayed in the family.

“Knowing and learning from [my father] and how he treated others and gave love to others made me feel that I should be part of the community as well,” DeHoyos Sr. said.

The building remained unused until February of 2014 when DeHoyos Sr. decided to open Barrio Barista. Their location on the westside was vital to their operations and something they wanted to honor and reflect in the flavors they offered customers.

“When it came to creating these menu items, we had to incorporate the flavor of the westside of San Antonio and what we’re used to,” DeHoyos Jr. said.

These westside flavors come in the form of items such as a barbacoa grilled cheese and a horchata latte which combine traditional offerings of a coffeehouse with the unique flavors of the westside of San Antonio.

Since its’ inception, Barrio Barista has become a staple for the westside community with a large, loyal customer base. DeHoyos Jr. and Sr. believe this stems from an individualistic approach of making every customer feel both valued and appreciated.

“Knowing every customer personally and knowing what they drink is the key to success,” DeHoyos Sr. said.

“If you can create a unique experience where you remember their drink… or a conversation that you had with them on their last visit, it sparks something in them and they say, ‘this place makes me feel significant,’” said DeHoyos Jr.

Another key component in building their customer base has to do with digital and social media marketing. At launch, DeHoyos Jr. made profiles on multiple platforms because he understood the importance of reaching diverse audiences.

“I knew at that moment when we opened our doors that we also needed to have a presence online,” DeHoyos Jr. said. “We had to create a platform for ourselves so we could be seen and heard.”

The coffeehouse utilizes several different platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in an effort the maximize reach. In addition, DeHoyos Jr. focuses on customer engagement throughout their platforms.

“We use all platforms simultaneously and we engage with our audience as much as we can.” DeHoyos Jr. said.

Most recently, social media and digital marketing has become vital with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeHoyos Jr. began preparing in March to shift to an online ordering system.

“I started creating our online ordering portal… to where people can select their items and add to their cart,” DeHoyos Jr. said.

Their point of sale system made it easy to migrate their menu to a webpage that customers could order from. The website was live and ready when the shutdown occurred in mid-March. After transitioning to online ordering only for a brief period, Barrio Barista is currently open for dine-in customers with all COVID-19 precautions taken into consideration. However, despite the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, one thing remained the same for the coffeehouse.

“We alwaysgive the same quality and care in all of our food and drinks,” DeHoyos Sr. said.

Consistency is something that the DeHoyos believe is a key to customer loyalty.

“I think when you’re consistent in a product, I believe that increases returning customers because they know what to expect,” DeHoyos Jr. said.  “When that consistency goes down, the quality goes down.”

For the future, Barrio Barista is planning on expanding their menu to include cold-press juices and Botanica. They will continue evaluating for the future as the COVID-19 pandemic continues but will ultimately maintain engagement with community and their passion for coffee.

“I firmly believe that the passion for doing what you love to do really isn’t a job, it’s a way of life,” said DeHoyos Sr.

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