“Finca” Will Focus On Salvadoran Coffee, Cuisine & Culture
July Open Set in South Madison’s Novation Campus
Madison - Marleni Valle is proud of her birth country – El Salvador, and she’s excited to
bring a bit of its coffee, culture and cuisine to her adopted country and new home in the
Madison area. Finca Coffee is set to open in July on Madison’s South side at 2500
Rimrock Road in the Novation Campus with initial hours of Monday – Saturday 6:30
a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Valle, along with her husband Silas, have run small businesses before including a Latin
restaurant in Boston before they and their family moved to Madison last year. Finca
Coffee will mark the first time Marleni has been a sole owner/operator, and she’s
embracing the challenge.
“We moved here because Silas had roots in the state having graduated from UW-
Richland and UW-Platteville, and he had an opportunity to return here to work at UW-
Madison,” Valle said. “But owning a business where I can share where I’m from and set
an example for our daughters is a passion. Latinas are changing the world.”
Valle is aware of Madison’s long-standing sister city relationship with the Salvadoran
town of Arcatao, and she’s looking forward to helping foster that connection.
Valle is collaborating with longtime family friend Todd Allbaugh, who will serve as
General Manager and has extensive coffee experience having owned and operated the
former 5th Element Coffee bar until 2017. Finca Coffee is an opportunity to expand
where the former shop left off.
“We had a great core of guests who appreciated what we were doing with coffee, but we
faced extenuating circumstances. I’m very happy to focus on guest service instead of
ownership,” Allbaugh said. “With pun intended, we plan on taking the best elements of
5th and bringing them to Finca.”
That includes the coffee. Valle and Allbaugh have teamed with 4 Monkeys Coffee
Roasters of El Salvador to once again provide the majority of Finca’s coffee along with
JBC Coffee Roasters of Madison contributing to the brew bar.
4 Monkeys is co-owned by 2010 and ‘11 Salvadoran and 2011 World Barista Champion
Alejandro Mendez, 2012 Salvadoran Barista Champion and internationally renowned
Roaster Daniel Mendez, Barista and International Coffee Judge Rafael Puquirre and stand
out Barista Joel Moreno.
“When coming up with a name, we wanted to keep the focus on the coffee and what’s
important to us,” Valle said. “Finca, in Central America, is Spanish for farm. That’s
where it all starts; with great producers who farm correctly taking care of the
environment, people and produce a great cup of coffee.”
Allbaugh, who just returned from his 38th trip to El Salvador, met with coffee farmers to
purchase this year’s crop and to collaborate with his friends at 4 Monkeys.
“El Salvador is my second home,” Allbaugh said. “I first visited in 1992 when Silas and I
were roommates in college, ended up being the best man in his and Marleni’s wedding,
and it’s where I discovered my passion for coffee. We focus on direct relationship coffee
meaning we buy directly from the farmers at above fair trade prices, so we know we’re
getting the highest quality single origin coffee and having the greatest impact on
improving producer’s and worker’s lives.”
Finca Coffee will go well beyond coffee offering what Marleni Valle calls a Latin food
menu beginning with the national Salvadoran dish – pupusas. Pronounced ‘poo-POO-sas,’ Valle describes them as a grilled stuffed tortilla with filings ranging from
Chicharrón (pork) to beans, cheese and more.
“In El Salvador, pupuserías are everywhere,” Valle said. “It’s the food that unites the
country from rich to poor because we all grew up eating them. It’s comfort food served
with a side of curtido (a semi spicy cabbage slaw) and tomato salsa. Most Salvadorans
simply eat them with their hands, but we’ll have utensils for the less adventurous.”
Tacos and burritos will also be on the menu along with salads for lunch. Breakfast will
include made from scratch waffles, a breakfast sandwich, an oatmeal bar, and the made
fresh daily Salvadoran quesadilla which is nothing like the Mexican dish of the same
“My mom still makes quesadillas in our stone oven back home, and that’s where I
learned,” said Valle. “They’re a cross between a sweet pound cake and a savory cheese
cornbread topped with sesame seeds, and they pair perfectly with coffee.”
Valle and Allbaugh plan to work with local producers as much as possible in sourcing
seasonal ingredients and other items that will be carried in house, and they’re excited to
be in an emerging part of the Madison area.
“It can be summed up in one word – opportunity,” said Valle. “There’s opportunity to
add to a growing part of the Madison area at this location, and without the interest and
investment from the Alexander Company in seeing Latina and women-owned businesses
grow, this wouldn’t be possible.”
Alexander Company teamed with Valle on a pilot project to assist minority women
owned businesses on tenant improvement allowances in order to bring greater diversity
and food culture to the area. Alexander Company President, Joseph Alexander, sees the
project as making an investment greater than brick and mortar.
“We like to say ‘it’s more than just a building’ because we’re in the business of helping
develop communities,” said Alexander. “That includes helping empower and investing in folks like Marleni and her business which adds to our Novation Campus which just keeps
Finca Coffee will feature what Allbaugh calls a modern take on a Salvadoran coffee farm
“It’s based on Santa Leticia, the first coffee farm I was on in 2002,” Allbaugh said. “The
open kitchen, wood, tile, a cozy fireplace and art by renowned Salvadoran artist Fernando
Llort are the little touches that bring a bit of El Salvador to Madison.”
Above all, Valle and Allbaugh hope to bring warmth and Salvadoran hospitality.
“Where I’m from people are always welcoming neighbors in for a cup of coffee,
quesadilla and a pupusa,” Valle said. “It’s that sense of community and family I want to
bring to Finca Coffee. If we accomplish that, it will be something for which we can be