Batesburg-Leesville, SC (Angelica Iglesias) – You may have seen the orange iCrave Café trailer on Mitchell Street near the Wendy’s in Batesburg-Leesville, or maybe you’ve noticed you haven’t seen it in a while.
iCrave Café now has a brick and mortar building in the former Boutique 527 location at 108 Main St. The coffee house is owned and run by the humble Carlos Velez. Although he spent most of his life in Florida, he was born in Puerto Rico where coffee is instilled into the Hispanic culture. However, he says he didn’t become a true coffee lover until about 20 years ago when he met his wife, who comes from a country who might love coffee even more: Cuba.
Velez got the idea while he was starting to think about retiring from the insurance business. He had some money saved and wanted to do something he really loved. After retiring, he, his wife and their two dogs moved to Greenwood, SC. He came up with the idea of a coffee and food truck but realized the startup cost could be as much as $100,000. He started scrolling Pinterest and pinning everything he liked that had anything to do with coffee. He found posts of coffee trailers that only cost a few thousand dollars to make, so he started figuring out the costs and began building everything himself with some help from his wife and Pinterest of course.
He also started doing research on coffee. He quickly learned that the process of making coffee, especially grinding the beans, is its own science that is much more complicated than people might think. Velez also knew he wanted to use a South Carolina coffee roaster; he found West End Coffee Roasters in Greenville, SC and have used their coffee beans ever since.
When Valez finished the trailer, he set up near Lander University in Greenwood. At the same time, he had some friends in Batesburg-Leesville that were telling him of the need for gourmet coffee in the town. He and his wife thought about it and moved again in the summer of 2017. By June, Velez’s wife had a job at a local doctor’s office, and he had the coffee trailer set up at the Mitchell Street location. Despite the hot weather, he was gathering a loyal customer base quickly.
iCrave Café stayed in the trailer for almost a year until it moved into the other half of John Grey Events in May of 2018. When you walked into the flower shop, one side was flowers and event supplies and the other side was iCrave Café. A few months later, a building across the street opened up. Although Velez never expected to have an entire coffee house, he couldn’t ignore the opportunity that seemed to have opened up just for him.
Just like the trailer, Velez got ideas from Pinterest and did the work to fix up the building to his liking. After some paint and elbow grease, iCrave Café opened its very own location in October of 2018. Today, the large space is the essence of a coffee house. You feel at home with couches and chairs to lounge in and Velez behind the counter ready to whip up any gourmet coffee beverage of your choice. The mornings are packed with people getting their daily fix, and kids from local schools hang out to play board games or do homework. It’s the kind of ambiance you can only get from a local coffee house that serves the community.
If you visit iCrave Café and aren’t sure what to try, Velez’s favorite drink to make is the flat white. It is like a latte but with more coffee and less foam. However, anything you try is sure to be of the highest quality.