Coffee del Rey owner Kimberly Marcaccini was 8 years old when she had her first taste of coffee. In her Brazilian family, coffee time meant talking and togetherness, and she was eager to join in. She asked her mom for a cup. “It was basically milk with a splash of coffee,” Marcaccini recalls. “But since then, I’ve been obsessed.”
After graduating from Southern Methodist University in 2013 with a sociology degree, Marcaccini moved to Korea to teach English. Seoul has more than 18,000 coffee shops, and every day after work, she visited a new one. She was fascinated by the camaraderie and cultural exchange, and decided that opening a shop of her own in Seoul was the perfect way to meld her interest in sociology and her passion for coffee.
It was also a way to carry on a family tradition that began long before her first cup. Marcaccini’s grandparents picked coffee cherries in Brazil, and her maternal grandfather often roasted coffee over an open flame. When he was 10 years old, Marcaccini’s father braved harsh weather and trees swarming with wasps to help his parents pick the fruit. Coffee was their livelihood; their way of life.
Marcaccini’s plans for a Korean café fell through, so she returned to Texas and set out to gain experience in the business. By chance she came upon Plano-based roaster Coffee del Rey and asked the owner, Larry McPherson, if he was hiring. He wasn’t. “That’s OK,” she told him. “I can work for free.”
He told her to come back on Monday, certain she wouldn’t. But she did, and worked without pay for two weeks. After that, McPherson hired her part-time. Coffee del Rey is primarily a roaster, which gave Marcaccini the chance to learn the process. She also learned that McPherson donated most of his profits.
“I was learning about coffee, and I was seeing that it was possible to use your platform to help others,” she says.
In late 2017, McPherson decided to sell the shop. Marcaccini told him she’d take it. At first, he shrugged her off. But her passion convinced him, and in January, she signed the lease. She didn’t have the money for an up-front payment, so she pays McPherson a portion of her proceeds each month.
Since taking over, Marcaccini, now 27, has prioritized giving back. She donates 10 percent of her profit to local charities and is meticulous about where her product originates. Coffee is a $100 billion business, and 90 percent of its production occurs in developing countries—which has raised ethical questions about the industry’s treatment of the people who harvest the coffee. “It’s a personal thing for me,” Marcaccini says. “And it’s my goal to bring awareness by working with farmers who pay fair wages and have good conditions.”
The entrepreneur says she has been surprised by Coffee del Rey’s word-of-mouth growth. In the future, she hopes to travel to Brazil to meet coffee farmers and serve in their communities. She’d also like to expand into a larger space. For now, though, Marcaccini is content to roast good coffee, give back however she can, and carry on her family tradition.