Chiloe’s Corner 12 Step Cafe is a small start of a big journey for its owner
Chiloe Chervenell opened the tiny Kennewick cafe in the Tri-City Alano Club in east Kennewick in October.
The Mesa resident is a first-time entrepreneur serving a mix of traditional American and Mexican cafe fare in a small restaurant space attached to the social club, which is dedicated to supporting recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Chervenell started the business with a $5,000 loan from a friendly supporter. In time, she hopes to expand the low-key, acceptance-oriented cafe to an empty spot in her hometown as well.
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Chervenell, 44, was born in Seattle, grew up in east Kennewick and moved to Mesa as a child. While she’s had a troubled past, including drug addiction and several prison terms, she always loved to cook for her large bi-cultural family. She doesn’t draw a direct connection to 12-step recovery groups that call Alano Club home because of the anonymous nature of recovery.
I use 12 steps as a foundation for my life. I’m here because of God’s grace.
Chiloe Chervenell, owner of Chiloe’s Corner 12 Step Cafe in Kennewick
But it is compatible with the law-abiding life she’s building for herself, her partner and the two young children remaining at home.
“I use 12 steps as a foundation for my life,” she said. “I’m here because of God’s grace.”
Her commitment was tested a year or so ago as she concluded her work release program as a clerk in Mesa. After the job ended, she spied a job posting for substitute teachers. She thought it would be a good way to earn money to fulfill her dream of opening a cafe business. She applied, disclosing her past.
She completed the certification programs, largely at her own expense, only to have her application rejected at the end.
At a another time, Chervenell said the distressing turn might have sent her back to a life of hustling and drugs. Instead, she said, she cried it out with family and friends, working the 12-step program.
A friend stepped up with the money she needed to lease the space in the basement of the Alano Club.
Chervenell said starting her own business was a logical route, saying it’s hard for someone with her background to find legitimate employment. Her cafe is a licensed, IRS-registered establishment following all the rules.
Chiloe’s — pronounced “Shiloh” — is a one-person operation to start. Chervenelle said she can’t afford staff on her tiny budget, but she’s encouraged by the strong support she’s received so far and pledged to support people like her who are looking for legitimate work as they come out of the criminal justice system.
Even if she can’t offer a job, she said she’d offer help with steps such as securing a food worker card, a critical step of all food service jobs. “Acceptance” is her byword.
Chiloe’s Corner 12 Step Cafe is at 102 E. Kennewick Ave., two blocks east of South Washington Street. Business hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday to Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It is also open later on Saturday to serve the club’s bingo visitors with a limited menu.
Her breakfast menu includes staples such as ham and eggs, omelets and Hispanic-oriented fare such as chorizo and eggs and papas gordita. The lunch menu offers a comparable blend of hamburgers, cheeseburgers and tacos, sopes and quesidillas.
There are dinner specials on Saturday and Sundays. It also serves coffee drinks and Italian sodas.
Chervenell, who is completing a bachelor’s degree in business through an online university, said she’s eager to develop a fan base. Follow Chiloe’s Corner at chiloescorner.com. The phone number is 509-531-9937.