After Kara Finkelstein spent a summer volunteering with Care for Wild in South Africa, she knew she wanted to continue to carry out their vision of conserving black and white rhino breeding populations. While there, she grew attached to a baby rhino whose mother had been poached when she was just four weeks old. Rhinos nurse every one to two hours for the first six months of their lives, so she and the other volunteers would wake up every two hours to feed her. This experience made a lasting impression on Finkelstein and is the reason she and her mother — Dawn Kaprielian — opened Lekker Coffee in RiNo.
Finkelstein grew up working in her family’s bar in California. She loved the camaraderie of the locals and knew she wanted to open something with her mom after moving to Denver several years ago — she just wasn’t quite sure what that would be. Kaprielian had been running her grandfather’s bar for 10 years and was interested in moving to Denver if they found a good opportunity.
After spending that summer in South Africa, Finkelstein’s dream began to form. It was only fitting that she open a coffee shop to support rhinos in none other than the RiNo neighborhood. “When I was there I fell in love with their mission,” said Finkelstein. Care for Wild works to rescue, rehabilitate, rewild, release and protect this keystone species and Finkelstein hopes to spread awareness through Lekker. “When I moved here I noticed that there were little rhinos in the bike lanes and everywhere throughout the neighborhood. It was just a perfect fit,” she said. Lekker plans to donate 10% of profits to Care for Wild each quarter as well as host classes to teach the community about the nonprofit. “We’re trying to get really involved with the community right now,” said Finkelstein.
The coffee shop’s name comes from the Afrikaans slang word “lekker,” — pronounced “lek-uh” — meaning tasty, great or fantastic. “It’s such a positive, fun word,” said Finkelstein. The shop itself is similar. The first thing you see upon walking in the door is a bright, geometric mural of a rhino painted by Pat Milbery of So Gnar Creative. The back wall is filled with more art that gives the shop an eclectic yet homey feel. “We want people to come hang out and we want to get to know everyone. It’s more like a family,” said Finkelstein.
Lekker serves coffee from Novo along with pastries from Black Box and homemade breakfast burritos on the weekends made by Kaprielian herself. “We sold out in under an hour last weekend,” said Kara of the breakfast burritos. Lekker’s signature drink is a horchata latte but if caffeine isn’t your thing you can get a turmeric or adaptogenic latte to get your warm drink fix. The two also hope to offer liquor in the shop for happy hour in the next few weeks.
Finkelstein and Kaprielian bring a cozy, family-run business to RiNo along with awareness of an important cause. Help support Lekker — and the rhinos — by visiting the new coffee shop and get a dose of happiness while you’re at it.
Lekker Coffee is located at 3460 Larimer St, Denver. Open 6:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. daily.