For the past five years, Flora Barron has been one of the sisters behind Flora & Lily's Mexican Kitchen food truck
in Fort Wayne. She's also been a full-time teacher in the community for about 20 years, most recently teaching math and business at Miami Middle School.
But about seven weeks ago, Barron resigned from her teaching job to embark on a new food venture with her husband: Kanela
blended drinks, coffee, and bites, a modern shop in a revitalized storefront at the corner of Pearl and Harrison Streets.
On the first level of Randall Lofts near The Landing and right across from Fort Wayne's first boutique hotel, The Bradley
, Kanela offers sweeping views of the downtown skyline from its sunny window seats. For Barron, what's truly special about this new venture is the way it blends her love of Fort Wayne with her heritage.
Kanela is located in a refurbished storefront at 618 Harrison St.
Barron says her family was once poor, living in Southern Mexico, but they migrated to the Northern part of the country where they opened a juice shop. Since then, they've expanded and become the entrepreneurs behind the popular Jugos Veracruz
juiceries in Northern Mexico.
Her hope with Kanela is to extend that heritage here with a focus on healthy alternatives to fast-food, offering handcrafted juices, smoothies, and coffee of her own creation, as well as an assortment of grab-and-go breakfast and lunch items sourced from local bakers.
But as Barron shares her vision with the city and creates jobs downtown, she's also facing the same setbacks many are feeling in the food industry as COVID-19 rages across the state and country.
Input Fort Wayne sat down with Barron to learn more about her new business, as well as the challenges of starting a food venture during a pandemic.
Flora Barron, second from left, and her team at Kanela.
IFW: What inspired you to open a coffee, juice, and smoothie shop?
My husband really likes coffee, so last year, he wanted to open a coffee trailer. I always wanted to do something with smoothies, shakes, and juices. Since members of my family own the Jugos Veracruz
juiceries in Northern Mexico, there's a family connection there for me. I also like juiceries because they provide fresh, healthy foods.
So I started researching more about juices and smoothies, and I developed a list of recipes I liked. My husband and I also went to one of the top best barista schools in the nation last year in Seattle and took a course there to learn the basics of coffee, espresso, and how to run a coffee house business.
That's when we decided to open Kanela.
Kanela offers an assortment of hand-crafted smoothies, juices, and coffees with breakfast, lunch and dessert items from local bakers.
IFW: Did you always plan on opening your shop in downtown Fort Wayne?
We initially had our eyes on the Landing, but that didn't come through, so I connected with the City of Fort Wayne's SEED Fort Wayne
organization. Through them, I met my real estate broker, and he is the one who found this location on Pearl Street. It had just become available around November of last year when we found it.
IFW: You've launched your business during COVID-19. How has the pandemic impacted your startup so far?
After we purchased our building, all of the business permits we applied for got delayed because of COVID. Then we had to renovate the space, and some of our construction workers got sick with the virus. So it has been one delay after another. Finally, we were able to open the first week of November this year, but that's almost a year after we purchased the building.
Even so, we have been trying to adapt as much as we can. My husband kept his full-time job, so we still have income, but the capital is decreasing more and more because of the pandemic. We want to do curbside pickup and online ordering, but everything takes time to set up, and it cannot be set up before the business opens because there are so many changes still happening. So we're learning as we go.
Flora Barron works the cash register at her new smoothie, juice, and coffee shop, Kanela.
IFW: Are you using any of the same juice recipes from your family in Mexico?
The juices in Mexico are more simple. I have more complex recipes that use a variety of ingredients like carrots, oranges, ginger, and lime, as well as some vegetables, like spinach. I've always struggled with my weight, so when I go out to eat, I like to find healthy choices. Smoothies are a great alternative to ice cream. We have healthy alternatives to lattes, too, like keto coffee.
We like our products to be natural, vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free. In our smoothies, we use a puree as the base, and that puree is made with ripe fruits, which is a natural sweetener. Then, from there, we add fresh fruits or vegetables, and other products, like sugar-free milk and whey protein, or supplements that can help you with different dietary needs, like fat burning, probiotics, or fiber.
IFW: What do you recommend on your menu for newcomers?
If you want a smoothie, there are two that are very popular. One is called Energy Elixir, and the reason that one is good is because it has green tea, pineapple, kale, avocado, and chia seeds. There is another one called Drink Your Veggies, and that one has mango, pineapple, celery, parsley, and spinach.
If you're coming in for a latte, a good one is Flora's Latte. It is a combination of lavender and vanilla. If you come in for a juice, honestly, all of them are good. A lot of customers ask for our Green Boost, which has green apples, celery, kale, cucumber, ginger, and lime juice. Our Heartbeet is also very popular with beets, apples, carrots, ginger, and lime juice.
A map of Fort Wayne inside Kanela at 618 Harrison St.
IFW: Anything else customers should know?
We have a rewards program, so returning customers can accumulate points. You get one dollar off for signing up, and after you make a certain number of purchases, you can earn free pastries or upgrades in your drinks.
Speaking of pastries, we sell a great selection of gluten-free pastries from the local Sifty Drifter baker
, who makes desserts for Fort Wayne Country Club.
We also have donuts from 375 Degree Donuts and Sweets on Bluffton Road
by the new Crescendo Cafe
, and we have croissants from the Bread Guy LLC in Markle
. He sells at the farmers market downtown, and he supplies bread for Tolon Restaurant
We are about to start selling flower bouquets from a local florist, too. We want to support other small businesses in Fort Wayne as we build our own. I hope my little business can help somebody.
Along with its in-house drinks, Kanela features food by the Sifty Drifter baker, 375 Degree Donuts and Sweets, and the Bread Guy LLC.
IFW: How can Fort Wayne support you during COVID-19?
If people want to support small businesses during COVID-19, which are feeling major effects, I suggest they buy gift cards, and buy gift cards at local shops instead of chains. Instead of going to Starbucks, go to one of the local coffee shops: West Central Cafe, Crescendo Cafe, Fortezza, Utopian, or Conjure
. There are so many local places that have just opened, and we need to support them.
Why have you chosen Fort Wayne, of all places, to build your business and your life?
Fort Wayne... I'm about to start crying.... Fort Wayne has been a huge blessing for us. My husband and I moved here 29 years ago, and we have loved this place. We love everything, and we just want to give back to the community. We want to help other people in the little that we can. Fort Wayne has been better to us than our own city in Monclova, Mexico. We're excited and thankful to be here.
618 Harrison Street
Monday-Friday: 8:00 A.M to 6:00 P.M.
Saturday: 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.