New owners of Ula Café aim to create community space – Boston Business Journal

Kelly Fernandes, Beth Santos and Marvin Mathelier are co-owners of Ula Cafe, located in Jamaica Plain.

Ula Café is highlighted in the Boston Business Journal this week. Egleston Square Main Street is proud to work with these entrepreneurs and neighbors!

Last April, Jamaica Plain coffee shop Ula Café went up for sale, surprising neighbors who had come to know it as a neighborhood staple since it originally opened in 2007. Situated in the Brewery complex in Egleston Square, Ula is as much a community space as it is a restaurant, hosting live music and poetry events and serving a variety of coffeeshop fare…Enter Beth Santos, her husband Marvin Mathelier, and Johnson & Wales-trained pastry chef Kelly Fernandes. The three were introduced by Egleston Square Main Street executive director Denise Delgado in early 2021 and soon hit it off, excited by the idea of revitalizing a beloved institution in their own neighborhood. In June 2021, the three bought Ula.

One year in, Santos, Mathelier and Fernandes have implemented some big changes. They’ve revamped the menu, adding new sandwiches, salads and rotating specialty drinks, sales from some of which go toward local nonprofits. They redesigned the interior of the café, then finally reopened indoor dining about six months ago. They’ve teamed up with another Egleston Square Main Street member, Anne Hernandez, who curates local artwork — all of it on display on Ula’s walls and available for purchase — with an emphasis on Black and brown creators.

They’ve also established what they call the “Pay it Forward” wall, where a customer can pay for items in advance, like a cup of coffee or a pastry, then write it on a sticky note and leave it on the wall. Anyone can come in and redeem one of the sticky notes, no questions asked.

For Santos, such initiatives are a way of empowering neighbors to fight for social justice in small ways. Community, she says, has always been deeply ingrained in the culture of Ula Café, well before she and her new co-owners bought the business, and she hopes to uphold that reputation, especially in the face of a quickly gentrifying Egleston Square.