Mar Le Café: Same Taste, New Place

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Coffee connoisseurs in Glen Cove may be quite familiar with the fine quality of coffee provided by Mar le Café, a small café that soon outgrew its location, nestled in an alley off of Glen Street, and moved to a more prominent storefront on School Street in July. The café first opened in the fall of 2012 and in the three years of its existence, owner Marlene Flores has steadily grown her customer base and hopes to reach more people in the new location.

“I have always believed that if you do the right things, the right things are going to come,” said Flores. “I was very lucky to find this place.”

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Marlene Flores serves up a latte with a smile (Photos by Jill Nossa)

Mar le Café opened its original doors during a difficult time in Flores’ life: 10 days after signing the lease, her oldest son was in a car accident and suffered a head injury. Now, at 18, he is in college and doing well, but it made for a stressful start. She did her best to make the café into what she had envisioned, slowly adding food items such as salads and crepes as well as a selection of baked goods to cater to customers’ needs.

Business is in her blood: from her grandparents to her cousins, she comes from a family whose members have started their own businesses. She has worked in real estate and insurance, which taught her that “the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.” But, she wanted to put her energy into something of her own, something she was passionate about. Coffee was a natural fit.

“When you’ve tasted different coffees and have discovered quality, you find out there is so much you can do,” said Flores. “It’s hard to find good coffee and coffee is one of those special drinks for everyone.”

Flores is originally from El Salvador, a country whose fate has been intertwined with the coffee industry for more than a century. Being from a land where coffee beans are grown gives Flores a stronger connection to the brew.

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The café has moved to 8 School St. and offers a selection of baked goods and lunch fare in addition to coffee drinks.

“One of the things that triggered my decision to go into the business was that I could go back to my country and learn more about it,” said Flores, who moved to the U.S. at age 21. “The more I started to learn about coffee, the more I liked it and eventually I thought, I can do it.”

As far as location, she said Glen Cove has been a good fit. She lives in Greenvale, so the commute is easy, plus she said she has had help through every step of the process, from opening the original location to moving over to School Street. The decision to move came at a time when she felt limited in the space, though business was steady.

“I just felt that my time was near,” she said.

That did not mean wanting to leave Glen Cove. She said she wasn’t sure she could afford the rent for a larger space, but last spring, she joined the Glen Cove Business Improvement District and learned that the previous store in the location, So Vintage, was about to close. She would walk by and look in the windows, and she could see herself in there. Before long, everything was in place to make the move in July, right in the midst of the downtown summer concert season.

She said she has had a lot of help from the folks at city hall and the BID. Plus, she felt that timing was right; with the development plans that are happening in the city, she hopes that she will have an established faithful customer base by the time the projects are completed and is looking forward to serving more customers who might be drawn to Glen Cove in the future.

Her customers are loyal and regularly come back to the barista who knows exactly what they want and how to prepare it.

Rebecca Forster, co-owner of the Long Island Academy of Fine Art with her husband, Steven, is a regular customer. She said she visits the coffee shop at least once a week, while her husband goes daily.

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Flores has traveled to her home country of El Salvador to learn more about coffee industry and select the finest beans.

“I’ve always had my favorite coffee spot wherever I’ve lived, but I had never formed a relationship with the owner or even the employees,” said Forster. “I started going to Mar le Café because it’s my favorite coffee in town and happens to be around the corner from our business, but I continue to go because I walk into Marlene’s and I am greeted by name and with the question: ‘The usual?’ Marlene makes a point of fostering relationships, getting to know her customers as individuals and friends, remembering details about our lives and inviting us into hers as well.  I admire her as a woman, entrepreneur and of course, coffee maker.”

Mar Le Café is at 8 School St. in Glen Cove, open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

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