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  • Writer's pictureDestiny Williams

Maritza Martinez - The Coffee Belt

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

“I hope that Muscatine knows that there is hope in life. We’re here for our community.”

The Coffee Belt, located at 210 East 2nd Street, is a local coffee shop run by Maritza Martinez. The space opened in February 2017, and has been a Muscatine favorite since then.

Maritza, the creator and owner of The Coffee Belt, started the process of opening the coffee shop when she was 22 years old. She attended college in Chicago and as her final semesters approached, she was unsure what her steps following graduation would be. With the dream of starting a coffee shop planted in her head in years prior, Maritza and her family began to bring the idea to life.

Compared to the vibrant coffee culture in Chicago, Maritza had noticed that Muscatine lacked spaces where people could grab a cup of coffee and have meaningful conversations. “All we had was the Starbucks in the big Hy-Vee,” she said, which had limited seating and very little privacy. To create a space where meaningful conversations could be carried out, in 2015 she took a leap of faith and started construction on what is now The Coffee Belt.

Maritza says that none of this would have been possible without the love and support of her family. Vasquez Enterprise, a group of five businesses (including The Coffee Belt and Guadalajara), is run by her family. Her mother and father have been encouraging since the start, and have helped shape it into what it is today.

When you walk inside the shop, you automatically feel comfortable.

“I wanted to create little cubbies where people could have private conversations,” Maritza says. The interior is complete with half booths, providing privacy from other tables around you. The comfortable seating and different murals create a warm and welcoming environment, just as Maritza intended.

In addition to opening The Coffee Belt, Maritza also felt she had a calling to be a mentor. Her goal was to staff the coffee shop with high schoolers.

“I wanted to teach them skills that I did not have at my first job,” Maritza says.

She runs her staff with grace and leniency, teaching that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from it. One of her favorite things is running the business behind the scenes.

“I have the most amazing staff where I can walk away and know that everything will be okay,” she says. Maritza also encourages creativity amongst baristas by allowing them to create new drinks and ideas.

One thing is certain, Maritza loves being a part of the Muscatine community. “We show love to our community in any way we can,” she says.

Especially in the midst of the pandemic, she is constantly thankful for the love and support of Muscatine residents. “I’m really happy to serve our community,” she says.

When she’s not at The Coffee Belt, Maritza can be found spending lots of time with her two kiddos, reading, participating in small group Bible studies, or serving on the Musser Public Library board.

I asked Maritza if she had any thoughts for anyone wanting to start a small business, and she gave fantastic advice. “The best things in life come when you work really hard for something,” she said. She advised people to find a good support team and push past any fears because it’s worth it. “When you go into it for the right reasons, it will all work out.”

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