photograph by Lissa Gotwals

Even before you enter Cocoa Cinnamon, the painted greeting above the door offers a cheery welcome: “HOLA!” This churrería, café, and roastery in Durham’s Lakewood neighborhood is an outpost of the coffee shop founded in 2013 by husband-and-wife team Leon and Areli Barrera de Grodski. When dreaming up this location, they were inspired by Areli’s childhood — she lived in Tijuana, Mexico, until she was 6 — and by trips to Mexico and Spain.

And in an area that’s long been home to a Latino community but is now rapidly changing, Areli and Leon wanted the café to be comfortable and welcoming to all: Mexican oilcloths cover the tables and paper stars hang from the ceiling; there’s always a Spanish-speaking employee working; and, in addition to coffee, they offer fresh churros all day. “There’s a nostalgia to the churros — we’ve had older women come in and cry because of how much it means,” Leon says.

“I never forgot the feeling of belonging when being in Mexico,” Areli says. “It’s always nice to be reminded of home, to feel like you belong.” 

The Churro Effect
2013 Chapel Hill Road
Durham, NC 27707

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Katie Schanze is the assistant editor and digital editor of Our State.