CAIRO — Jenna Schweitzer is always on coffee time.
Schweitzer, 19, owns The Medina Street Vault Coffeehouse and Bistro at 223 S. High St. in Cairo. The shop opened Aug. 19 and serves pastries, sandwiches, soups, salads and, of course, coffee.
“I knew I wanted to do a coffee shop and the food just came along with it,” Schweitzer said.
She grew up in Cairo and was homeschooled. She worked at Baristas in Grand Island from her junior year of high school until last spring.
Schweitzer said she is one of nine siblings and has a very supportive family. When she decided to open her own shop, her family was right there helping her. She wanted to open her business either in Cairo or Wood River to keep it close to her home and heart. When a building didn’t work out in Wood River, she stumbled upon another in Cairo.
The name comes from the vault inside the building, since it used to be a bank years ago. Schweitzer said after different attempts at getting a name approved, they stuck with “The Medina Street Vault” as Medina Street is one of the side streets near the building.
She and her family fixed up the building by themselves after her hired contractor was injured on another job. Her goal was to make it feel like home. The shop also has a private party room area available to rent.
“I just wanted somewhere where people could waste three hours and not know it,” Schweitzer said. “I love the building because I grew up with it.”
“I just wanted it to be home,” she said.
The feel of the shop is cozy, with mocha walls and refurbished wood tables and chairs, which Schweitzer and her family worked on. Her family’s old piano rests near a window next to a coffee table decorated with pennies, which adds character. Edison light bulbs dangle from the ceiling over ledges near one of the entrances.
Schweitzer said she doesn’t want to compete with other local businesses, but rather add to the scene. That’s a reason she doesn’t serve suppers except on Wednesdays, because of other local restaurants providing them so well. She said she intentionally tried to pick different menu items from what other businesses in the area offer. A popular sandwich at the shop is the Havanna, which is slow-roasted pork carnitas, with bacon, Swiss, spicy aeoli sauce, pickles and a bit of yellow mustard.
She said she aims for her business to be a place people can sit and enjoy each other’s company.
“I think it’s bringing to Cairo a place to slow down,” she said.
Schweitzer said her favorite part of owning the business is meeting new people and getting to know them.
“I feel like I’m on coffee time the whole time,” she said, adding her job doesn’t feel like work to her.
The espresso blend the Medina Street Vault uses is custom and is a mix of Peruvian, Mexican and Panamanian blends. She said each adds certain notes that go well together.
Her business offers smoothies and more than 20 syrup flavors for coffee, including a dozen sugar-free options. Her go-to drink is a cold brew coffee with a little bit of cream and an occasional bit of brown sugar. However, anything to do with coffee is her favorite.
“I like to think everyone loves coffee; you just need to find the right one,” Schweitzer said.
As a first-time business owner, she said she has a lot of respect for other local business owners. She has turned to social media and talking to people in town to figure out what people like.
“It’s been really cool to see it building,” Schweitzer said of the shop’s growth.
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