Corraling the coffee market

Dibe Biccino leaves light tracks, shepherds profits to good cause

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Oct. 3, 2013

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(Courtesy photo)

Dibe Biccino is a Native-owned and operated traveling coffee shop coming out of Flagstaff, Ariz. They have no official shop yet, but travel around selling their coffee. They will be selling at the Northern Navajo Fair in Shiprock this weekend.

With the days getting colder and nights getting longer it's time to get your hands on a toasty beverage -- maybe something organic with a distinctly Navajo flair, from coffee enthusiasts Dibe Biccino.

Dibe Biccino is a Native-owned and operated traveling coffee shop coming out of Flagstaff, Ariz.

They have no official shop yet, but the coffee vendors don't let that stop them as they set up traveling shops whenever they can. Up next is the Northern Navajo Fair in Shiprock.

The Shiprock Fair is in fact where their shop debuted in 2012 when they were looking for ways to raise money for a project out of Flagstaff called "Out of Your Backpack Media," an organization set to empower indigenous youth through free movie-making workshops and resource distribution.

The idea started with the mere mention of organizing a coffee shop because they owned a espresso machine and "it just kind of exploded from there," said Princess Benally, one of Dibe Biccino's founders.

The partners in Dibe Biccino include Jodi Manuelito, Toby Manuelito, Klee Benally, Yves Kinney, Leslynn Begay, Lyncia Begay, Crystal Kinney, Steven Toya and Shelby Ray.

Benally said Dibe Biccino plans on donating most of their funds from the coffee shop to OYBM again this year.

"We think that it's a great cause," Princess Benally said. They want the money earned during their visit to the fair to help OYBM get a building in Flagstaff.

"We want them to know that they matter," Benally added.

After the shop's success at Shiprock fair last year, the partners decided to officially establish Dibe Biccino as a coffee shop.

"We had such an awesome time last year," Benally said. "We just wanted to be able to provide people with good coffee."

Dibe Biccino is now a worker cooperative establishment that works to benefit indigenous and youth empowerment projects.

Benally said what a worker co-op means is that not only do the members of Dibe Biccino work there but they "all have a say in what's going to happen and they also help evolve the organization. Everyone manages it, everyone owns it and everyone has a say in it."

"I feel that Dibe Biccino could be a role model for other organizations or even other people," Benally said. She feels that if this type of working model comes to the reservation "that everyone would be happier."

For the upcoming fair Benally said they partnered up with a baker on the Navajo Nation who will be providing baked goods at their shop this year.

Again, their motive is not monetary; they want to help support her small business.

Its cooperative business model and pouring profits into a good cause are not the only ways Dibe Biccino is trying to improve life on the planet. They were also careful in their choice of raw materials: a fair-trade organic coffee blend from Chiapas, Mexico. Most of the cups they use are either recyclable or compostable.

"People should be expecting a coffee shop-style vibe," Benally said, adding that the smell of freshly brewed coffee and espresso beans being freshly ground will catch any passerby's attention. "It's just a really fun environment."

Anything they serve in a regular coffee shop Benally said they will serve in their shop, but expect a Navajo twist on the names. Instead of ordering a cappuccino, it's "die biccino." And a mocha latte is a "Miss Navajo" because it's so sweet, Benally explained.

They'll even have drinks for people who don't do caffeine, like hot chocolate and Navajo tea.

Eventually, Dibe Biccino would like to have a permanent corral somewhere in Flagstaff.

Benally said Dibe Biccino will set up on the south side of the Indian market during the fair. Look for them today through Sunday.

They will have buttons, stickers and hopefully T-shirts for sale alongside their coffee and pastry.

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