LAWRENCE – Slam poets, students, families and literary enthusiasts gathered on the art deco stools at the counter of El Taller, the new café bookstore at 275 Essex St., to listen as slam poet Carlos Contreras took the stage.
The seats and tables are covered in homey brown paper, and a bookshelf of local writing, poetry, fiction and nonfiction for both children and young adults lines the wall opposite the counter. Photos of places in Lawrence as well as artwork by Patrick Guerrero hang throughout the café. An open mic stage surrounded by an array of black chairs hints at El Taller’s most distinctive trait.
“El Taller” is defined as “the workshop” in Spanish. The name was chosen because the third Thursday of each month is open mic night, during which anyone can perform acts ranging from poetry, freestyle and stand-up comedy routines to sketches and dancing.
Owners Antonio and Mary Guerrero opened El Taller to bring positivity to the community with a great meal and a safe space, said Mary Guerrero. “Money is tight for most teens, but they’re still welcomed to come in and do homework and hang out,” said Patrick Guerrero.
The couple, who own one of Lawrence’s most popular restaurants, Café Azteca, consider El Taller a family project. Their youngest son Eric manages the café and is the chief cook. His older brother, Patrick, designed the space in artsy, eclectic décor. Hand-picking or creating everything from the seats to the jar lights hanging from the ceiling.