Taos coffee shops and community members alike mourn the loss of Taos Java's own Donna Martínez, who passed away Oct. 31 after a bout with cancer.
Martínez was well-known for her prowess and strength as a business owner, artist and friend by her customers, competition and others. For many years, Martínez served coffee and smiles to the community at Taos Java and carved her own niche out in the Taos coffee shop ring. In addition, Martínez was a successful artist, weaver and was always up for a fishing trip at some of the lakes and rivers in the area.
"She was a very lovely person," said Koko co-owner Dianna Sakai. "She definitely set the standard for excellent coffee in Taos."
Following the news of her passing, customers and friends brought flowers to the shop to express their condolences to her family as well as the Taos Java staff.
Martínez was raised in Ranchos de Taos - a proud Taos Tiger and a lifelong member of the Taos community. Her creative spark was always present in the activities she participated in and her art media included oil painting, weaving and sewing. Her weaving began upon dropping off daughters Santana and Sonya Lopez at Taekwondo classes and noticing a weaving studio nearby. After attending several classes and perfecting her craft, Martínez won several awards for her efforts including national recognition and was even commissioned by Disneyland Japan for some of her art.
Growing up, Santana Lopez remembers Martínez spending hours sewing together dresses for Sonya and herself for birthdays and holidays.
In 2005, Martínez opened Taos Java and turned a simple shop into the locally famous drive-up coffee spot it has become today. Much of the art and design elements in the shop are her work and, despite her absence, employees are intending to keep the shop as she left it.
"Every single detail has her artistic eye," Santana Lopez said. "It's very striking when you walk in, you see the environment she curated. Its that warm environment that helped the coffee shop really grow."
While her artistic talents are nothing to shy from, her impact on members of the community is not lost on her family and those closest to her. Lopez said that nearly everywhere she went in Taos, Martínez knew someone and would stop and talk to them. Anita Martínez, a four-year employee of Taos Java and lifelong customer of the shop, said that her former boss was not only a wonder to work for, but a great asset to the community at large.
"I learned a lot from her because, as a woman, she was just really strong," Anita Martínez said. "I feel like I learned a lot just by working underneath her. She was really talkative and friendly. She was always really helpful with people."
Donna Martínez opened her coffee shop with no barista experience and learned the ropes every step of the way. She was self-taught at running Taos Java and, according to Santana, was constantly learning the ins and outs of the coffee world. Donna Martínez was always creating and growing in some fashion.
"Even when she got really sick, she was still at the coffee shop every single day," Lopez said said. "She was always involved."
Santana and Sonya Lopez will follow their mother's footsteps and take over ownership of the shop, keeping their mother's legacy alive in Taos.