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Interior shot of Kiubo
Photograph: Estevan Cruz for Kiubo

Kiubo, business incubator-turned-collective, aims to spark Little Village resurgence

A group of Mexican-American business owners are redefining what it means to be connected and reinvesting in the community they call home.

Isaiah Reynolds
Written by
Isaiah Reynolds

At Marshall Boulevard and Cermak Avenue in Little Village sits Kiubo, a space dedicated to community building and gathering. Defined as a curated collective inspired by Mexico and Mexican culture, Kiubo is a conglomerate of different businesses run by entrepreneurs who grew up in Little Village and continue to call it home. 

Three separate concepts are housed under Kiubo: Bueno Days café, Comercio Popular homeware and Campo Santo flower shop. Co-founders and friends have run the operations of the eclectic gathering space for nearly three years and continue to evolve the brand.

kiubo, bueno days
Photograph: Estevan Cruz for Kiubo

“Our business practices are establishing what we deserve and what we believe the neighborhood deserves,” said Lucy Angel Camarena, co-founder of Kiubo and Comercio Popular and founder of Campo Santo. 

Bueno Days is run by couple/business duo Alma Blancarte-Mora and Cristobal Mora, who started the cafe in the Kiubo space when it was a business incubator years ago. After success as a pop-up, it eventually became a permanent addition to the collective in 2023. 

Bueno Days sources coffee directly from women-run collectives in Mexico—each bag of coffee has a picture of the women who sourced the coffee beans. Every season, the Bueno Days team features coffee concoctions inspired by a memory or facet of the founders’ Mexican-American upbringings. This winter’s spotlight is on “Abrazos de Invierno,” translating to “winter hugs,” with sprinkled tortilla crunch and oregano associated with the smells of Mexican soups prepared during the colder months. 

Camarena, Dom Cordilla and Miguel Angel Cervantes founded Comercio Popular, where they collect handmade mugs, vases, candles and a bevy of homeware items directly from Mexico. Camarena also heads up Campo Santo, an in-house flower shop where she sources local flowers for personal bouquets available for purchase. The brands’ offerings often overlap—vases or mugs used in any of the other concepts are available through Comercio Popular’s catalog.

interior of kiubo
Photograph: Estevan Cruz for Kiubo

Kiubo and its underlying brands are united as a celebration of what the founders call “Mexican duality”—highlighting contemporary and authentic representations of Mexico while amplifying the evolving Mexican-American identity. The founders, who all call Little Village home, aim to simultaneously feature both the Mexico of antiquity they’ve heard about from generations prior and the very modern country they have fallen in love with during their own travels.

The space, intimate without feeling cramped, is packed with character and adorned with pieces representing each unique brand. Ornate hand-crafted goods directly from Mexico line the walls, blossoming bouquets fill the corners and a pink-tiled community table is more than inviting for co-working with strangers. 

26th Street, the main commercial corridor of Little Village and a few blocks away from Kiubo, is one of the largest and financially successful retail centers in the city outside of Michigan Avenue’s “Magnificent Mile.” As of 2020, over 500 businesses line 26th Street in Little Village, with annual revenues estimated to be over $1 billion, according to a study from Chicago Central Area Committee and World Business Chicago.

Although there’s established retail success in this pocket of the Southwest Side, the Kiubo founders say building conditions and infrastructure were obstacles during their search for a viable location.

“I’ll be driving down Cermak Avenue and see all of these beautiful buildings in Little Village,” Mora said. “But very few of them are actually ready for operation.”

Whether it was plumbing issues or buildings not being up to code, Kiubo founders ran into problems with an abundance of other properties in Little Village. Nonetheless, they were determined to find the right spot to invest into the community and potentially bring a ripple of similar, home-grown entrepreneurs back to the Southwest Side. 

Four founders of Kiubo
Photograph: Courtesy of KiuboKiubo founders left to right: Dom Cordilla, Cristobal Mora, Alma Blancarte-Mora, Lucy Angel Camarena

“We could have opened something like this anywhere in the city and it might have been easier,” said Camarena. “But I’d much rather do the labor of doing it in Little Village because it feels more personal.”

The collective, which officially launched in October 2023, has been dedicated to serving the surrounding community and establishing partnerships with other Little Village-based brands. The shop has partnered with other local organizations and has “Friendship Fridays” to encourage neighborhood creatives bring their ideas and strike up conversation with others who can support. 

“We try to ask ourselves ‘what am I doing as a Chicagoan to make the city better?’” said Blancarte-Mora. 

For all of the team involved, Kiubo is a second or even third job. From art direction to healthcare practice, each of the leaders invest the time out of their day jobs into Kiubo to develop a business they believe in.

“I don’t do all of this to get paid,” Cordilla said, laughing. “I do it because I believe in the vision and its expansion.”

As café connoisseurs or interior decorators flock to the dazzling offerings of Kiubo, it suggests a viable future of authentic, modern and cultural entrepreneurship in the heart of Little Village.

“I hope what we’ve done inspires people to move in next door,” said Mora. 

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