From Domani to Highland: Cafe relaunching in Elgin with new name
A new Highland Cafe with updated décor and an expanded menu is in the works in downtown Elgin to replace a cafe owned for 10 years by a gregarious Venezuelan native.
Leo Urdaneta said goodbye Saturday to Domani Cafe at 109 E. Highland Ave., calling it "the best job I had in my life," and saying it was time to move on.
The cafe's new owners are Britta and Andrew Cuming, who also own the building and hired manager Adam Powell and Powell's girlfriend, Jamie Berry, to launch the new cafe Tuesday. The renaming will be official as soon as business paperwork is approved by the state, Cuming said.
Cuming said his goal is to keep the cozy, friendly atmosphere Urdaneta championed. "People love coming here," he said.
The cafe now serves coffee from Mean Bean Roasters in Galena, with freshly roasted beans picked up or delivered at least twice a month, Britta Cuming said.
New menu items will be rolled out in the next few weeks, including crepes, more breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos, morning oatmeal, fresh parfaits, fresh salads, "on the go" items like peanut butter and apple slices, and more kid-friendly options, the Cumings said.
"I want people to feel like they can stay all day, but they can run in and out if they want to," said Andrew Cuming, who is renovating the bathrooms and will add new flooring, ceilings and furniture. The feel will be warm and "rustic," Berry said.
The new venture sprung quickly after Urdaneta told him about three weeks ago he wanted to close the cafe, Andrew Cuming said. The two had negotiated a shorter three-year lease about a year and a half ago, he added.
Urdaneta, 49, a native of Venezuela and now a U.S. citizen, said he had been thinking about selling the cafe for a while and is grateful Cuming let him break the lease.
The cafe brought him countless friends and closing it was difficult, but necessary, Urdaneta said.
He will focus his energies on helping relatives leave Venezuela, where a political and economic crisis has deepened. "There is just no way for describing how terrible the situation is there right now," he said.
Urdaneta said he and his mother, who lives with him in Elgin, had a home fundraiser last summer where friends generously contributed to help send one of his brothers to Chile. He has another brother, a sister and nephew in their native city of Maracaibo -- he also wants to help them get to Chile.
He has no immediate plans for another job but will volunteer for the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra. He also is looking forward to spending more time with his teenage daughters, he said.
Andrew Cuming, who owns several buildings downtown, said that when Urdaneta told him he wanted to close, he contacted his friend Berry, who put him in touch with Powell. Berry most recently managed the now-closed Elgin Area Taproom.
Powell said he has 10 years of experience in food catering and also worked as a restaurant server. He worked in screen printing for the last two years, but felt the itch to get back into the kitchen, he said.
Prices will remain reasonable with the goal of building clientele, Powell said. "We are trying to work on new customers -- one person at a time," he said.