Taking care of customers has been a part of Meta’s life since coming to Beverly from Athens, Greece, 11 years ago. Whether working at Kohl’s, Starbucks or other shops on the North Shore, she is used to working long hours, going from one job to another. Now she’s glad that she’s only in one location, even if it’s every day of the week.
“It’s great having my own cafe,” she said. “I meet so many interesting people every day and can be connected to so many people to take care of them. That’s how the world is.”
Meta knows that firsthand. She and her husband left Albania when war broke out, heading first to Italy, until the economy turned downward, then to Greece, where they won a visa lottery to come to the United States. After two years of paperwork, they were awarded the visa on Sept. 10, 2001. But when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, they didn’t know if they’d be able to come at all. By October, though, they and their two young sons were settling into their Beverly apartment, and the Metas quickly began working two and three jobs, saving for this time when she could open her own cafe.
In 2006, the couple became U.S. citizens with 550 other immigrants in Lowell. Now the family owns their home in Danvers, and Meta’s business has become a family affair. Her husband, Julin, helped with the renovations and makes the gelato, her mother makes the soups, and one of her sons, a junior at Danvers High, works a few days a week.
Every detail of Gusto Cafe is personal, including the prices, and Meta is hoping to begin planning events with musicians. She asks her employees and friends for their ideas, to hear from them what they think is fair so they can make sure every item is affordable and good. Even if it means she pays more with the direct-trade coffee, she says it’s worth it.
“If we can help the farmers in different regions of the world, it makes sense to me,” she said. “So I’ll try new brews and explain to people that this gives everyone a chance around the world. We’re all for the same things.”