Issue: September 2005 Issue
Athena Finalist: Alma Sapia-Alfonzo
Owner, Lelolai Bakery and Cafe
Alma Sapia-Alfonzo has big plans for her business. She opened Lelolai Bakery and CafÃ© in 2001 and it has been growing ever since.
Sapia-Alfonzo has made the bakery and cafÃ© into a popular meeting place in Ohio City and has continued Ohio Cityâ€™s goal of prospering. The name Lelolai goes hand in hand with the area.
"It is a musical expression, which comes from the Spanish â€˜OlÃ©.â€™ It is associated with happiness and prosperity. When we heard that Ohio City was prospering we wanted to bring Lelolai to the area," Sapia-Alfonzo says. "With the West Side Market, it is such a beautiful area. ... We really enjoy the energy and investment going into the area."
The original business plan targeted the Hispanic populations in the area, but she has since found that 70 percent of her customers enjoying the Caribbean sandwiches and salads and specialty flan are not Hispanic. "To our pleasant surprise, most of our customers are non-Hispanic, but have traveled or know someone or have studied the language," she says. "It is the impact of the growth in the Spanish populations that we are after."
With this in mind, Sapia-Alfonzo wants to expand to the wholesale of her products. "We have been very successful with the entry of Spanish products into the market. My aspiration is to move to the next step of wholesale of the products. We are starting locally, but the goal is to sell nationwide," she says. "The exciting thing is that this is new to Cleveland. It is the only Spanish bakery and cafÃ©, and it is my hope to move to the next step so that people can enjoy it and that Cleveland can be known as the originator."
Outside of Lelolai, Sapia-Alfonzo is active in many womenâ€™s and Hispanic organizations, including the YWCA and Hispanic Community Forum. She says, "We have always had quite a commitment to the city of Cleveland. I have always enjoyed seeing people prosper and sharing my own little expertise and helping women succeed in their endeavors."
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