This week’s Meet a Mom is Leyla Dam Jenkins, the mom of two behind Lorca Coffee Bar in Cos Cob (inside Fleishers!) and Stamford. Here’s our chat with Layla, which covers her Spanish background (which influences her globally-inspired menus), her family’s favorites in the area and more!
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in town?
I was born in Granada, Spain, then moved to Anchorage, Alaska where my dad is from. Our family eventually settled in Darien when I was 11 and my parents are still there. I live with my husband James and our baby in downtown Stamford about a block away from Lorca and have happily been here for 8 years.
Can you tell us a bit about your kids?
I have one 17 month old named Paloma (PJ for short) and I’m expecting a little boy any minute now (due Feb 21st).
Congrats! What is one thing that would surprise people about you?
I have a masters in architecture that I no longer use because I decided to start baking and making cappuccinos instead. Also, baking has never been my forte…I love cooking because I hate measuring but I’ve slowly started to develop a deep love and respect for baking. To hone my skills, I signed up for the pastry arts culinary program at NCC led by Cos Cob’s very own and very talented Lisa of Sweet Lisa’s Exquisite Cakes. She’s incredible and a total inspiration.
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
My mom and dad in particular. They’re local and both recently retired and they help me a few days a week with Paloma who is wild about her “buela” and grandpa. My husband works 13 hour days and travels 2-3x a month for work, and despite that, he does so much heavy lifting around the house and with childcare. And lastly, for my group of mom friends, some of whom I made through the local Mama Collective whose creator I met at Lorca Cos Cob as a customer when I was pregnant with PJ. It helps to know that some of the crazy things that parenthood throws at you are totally normal and have people to laugh with through those times.
What’s your favorite thing to do with kids?
We walk to Mill River Park almost every day….there are always a ton of “wow-wows” (dogs) to see there and ice skaters to watch right now. We love the carousel and the playground, and there are a ton of fun organized activities. We also love walking to the Ferguson Library…their children’s librarians are incredible and the programs they have are always vibrant and full. When we feel like going on more of an adventure, we go to the Maritime Aquarium, Tig & Peach, Grace Farms to ogle the architecture, go for a hike, and do kids’ crafts, or the Stamford museum and nature center to see all the animals and check out the farmers market. We love Mianus River park for longer hikes. For a great donut and a peek at the ducks and turtles on the pond, we do Lakeside Diner. Bar Taco, Fiesta on Main, or Layla’s Falafel are our go-to for a quick weekend lunch and Cask Republic is our spot for an early dinner and a great beer. They all know Paloma’s name there and are always so friendly. The new Stamford Mecha is super kid friendly too and PJ loves their noodles.
Can you please tell us about Lorca? We love your coffee and breakfast sandwiches!
I opened it 7 years ago in downtown Stamford on Bedford Street and opened the second location 2 years ago inside of Fleishers on East Putnam in Cos Cob. It’s a Spanish-inspired cafe and we offer churros, empanadas, alfajores, cortados, horchata, and many other Spanish treats along with your standard lattes, cappuccinos and breakfast sandwiches. A customer favorite is the London Fog: a housemade earl grey and lavender elixir steamed with your choice of milk.
We are currently expanding the Stamford cafe which is only 550 square feet. It’ll be 1300 square feet with double the seating, more food options and it’ll be more family-friendly…more space for strollers, a changing table, and high chairs. We are slated to re-open the larger cafe in early to mid March of 2020.
How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
I didn’t love my job in NY as an architect and I wanted to do something community-building and more social. I had this idea that as an architect, I’d be spending a lot more time with clients and less time in front of a computer. Lorca has made that dream come true…we know everyone’s names, their kids’ names, the last vacation they went on, and what they’re going through at the moment. I like to call a latte the “cheapest therapy” out there and have made countless friends through the community of customers and baristas here who I spend a ton of time with outside of the cafe. Everything I have now and everyone I’ve met locally is because of Lorca and the community in Stamford and Cos Cob…my husband, my closest friends, and my business. I am forever grateful to each and every person who chooses us as their coffee shop daily.
More specifically, the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, the DSSD in downtown Stamford, Hey Stamford, and CTBites for helping get our name out there and spread the word. And lastly my brother, best friend, and local artist Cris Dam who lives in Westport for helping me with the vision for Lorca 7 years ago and creating a mural that makes me feel like I’m home every time I walk in.