It’s all about the aroma…ambiance, culture 100% pure coffee
I love coffee, just good aromatic 100% coffee, you can call me a die hard coffee lover. I don’t want caramel, chocolate, cinnamon, apple pie, peanut butter and jelly, or — Heaven’s sakes— bacon. I just want high-quality espresso and delicious whole milk. Just like when I visited Rome, Italy for the first time.
My favorite drink is whole-milk latte from my favorite locally owned coffee shop, Michelangelo’s. The fair trade cafe, which has filled the cozy niche at 114 State St. since 1997, is brimming with art and amazing vibe, and the baristas are some of the friendliest in Madison.
You don’t have to love whole milk to enjoy these lattes (2% or almond milk is still quite tasty), but if you’re staying away because of fat phobia, I will predict that in a few years, this nonfat and low-fat milk thing is going to go the way of margarine. The National Institutes of Health Study shows that people who consume high-fat dairy are healthier (and thinner) than those who skimp. That’s right.
Mostly, my inner voice tells me that something that tastes good is also good for me. I love the way whole milk froths, and the balance of bracing coffee with creamy milk, with a french croissant, you get the picture. The best part is, Michelangelo’s feels like home, Rome or Paris. During these hard times, I sat down with Samir Chahade, owner of Michelangelo’s to learn more about this amazing place, his philosophy in life, his insights into the business world as an entrepreneur and humanity.
Where is Sam from?
From Cali Colombia, Colombian mother and Lebanese Father
How long has Sam been in Madison?
How did you get here?
First I got to Florida and through friends I made it to Madison, Wisconsin.
When did you decide to open a cafe?
Before Michelangelo’s back In 1997, I was involved in the my first venture was into the jewelry business.
Why did you decide to open a cafe?
I always liked the food business because it is an open environment and you get to know a lot of people from different cultures, one must be open to other opinions and today with a society as polarized as it is, coffee is the social vehicle.
Where does the name Michelangelo’s come from?
I wanted a simple name so that it would have a social impact and be easy to recognize.
I have an artist friend named DAVID ANDREWS who does murals, church restorations including the capitol did all the painting in my cafe, the murals at Michelangelo’s cafe took around 5 years
What is Sam’s philosophy?
Try to learn from experiences, try to live and let live, accept the things that you cannot change and continue on the journey, because life is a journey and it is temporary. Sometimes we believe that life is an illusion and it is not, it’s like a shooting star.
I remember when I was 20 years old I traveled all over the world and I don’t regret it because I knew other cultures and searched for my own roots on father’’s side of the family who was from Lebanon.
How does Samir use this colombo-lebanese cultural force?
What gives me strength is the art of surviving in this world because over the years I learned that when you are young you think you are right and life is easy, and that’s not the case, life is sometimes difficult.
What is the vision of Michelangelo’s 5-10 years from now?
I would like some to get several people who can continue with the idea. I have almost 25 years doing Michelangelo’s, while it has helped me to grow emotionally it also consumes a lot of time in my life and at the same time it creates a certain barrier. It takes a lot of energy and does not allow me to do another project that I would like to do in my life before leaving planet earth
How is Sam identified?
As a global citizen, as I traveled around the world, I learned that we are all citizens of planet earth, that we all have many things in common, and we all have goals and dreams to fulfill. And when you think you are just from one place you become close minded, it does not allow us to advance in society and make new friends no matter where you come from.
What barriers did you encounter when starting Michelangelo’s as a Latino?
I never had many barriers because I had many friends and when I went out of the jewelry business. I spent a few years doing nothing and I have friends who are influential in the community and they helped me start Michelangelo’s. I had a lot of support and I have seen minorities not only Latinos but from other cultures that despite the obstacles overcome them. I think the best thing is to stop seeing ourselves as victims but as fighters and keep moving forward, we will always have obstacles and here I see many Latino people who are successful in overcoming obstacles, sometimes the obstacle is the language to learn how certain things work but one must go on and enter the project.
What would be the 5 or 10 things that you recommend to Latin Americans to open a business?
- Work very hard and with sacrifice in the business you want to start, know all the areas of the business, so when the time comes to open the business you know the path, nothing is free or luck everything is work
- Do not open the business near the business that helped you learn in the process
- Do not to think that you are going to get rich, but to do it for love and because it is what you like
- At first you will not see much profit but for me it is essential to continue working hard for several years
- To have ethics, discipline and consistency
- To have above all, experience to ask for a loan or find an investor and demonstrate the experience that you have in the market.
What have you learned from this pandemic?
How people react when isolated. I agree that it is a fairly strong virus as science says, but at the same time science does not dictate the socioeconomic consequences of what is happening today is something very oppressive, many people are depressed, I personally refuse to be totally isolated. I take all the precautions they dictate so as not to infect me. I would rather be wearing a mask and be social than not have any social contact.
Were you prepared for this pandemic?
You are never ready for things, it was as if I had been punched without realizing it. It has been hard. Thanks to GOD, I realized that managing the business with discipline, with the minimum amount of debt, helped me navigate these difficult waters. I live according to my possibilities.
Are you ready for a next pandemic?
It’s too difficult. I discovered how people act I am still positive about humanity but I also saw the dark side of humanity and I am trying to understand this
What kind of food is served at Michelangelo’s?
Vegetarian food, natural juices, various types of milk, a very comfortable place, but above all it is food with love. We now open with the coronavirus from 8 am to 7:00 p.m. 7 days a week.
What would you like to share with the Latino community?
We are always open for you, come when you can my coffee is a bond for all people it is a fluid place we help all the communities
What kind of coffee do you sell?
Colombian, Mexican and Central American helping small coffee growing farmers.