Sometimes there is nothing better than waking up and getting a nice hot cup of coffee, and Helix Coffee and Yoga House is the new kid on the block serving up that much-needed beverage.
University of New Mexico alumnus Vincent LaVolpa, owner of the now-two-month-old Helix Coffee and Yoga House originally received his Bachelor of Science degree in emergency medicine, dedicating himself as a paramedic for seven years with Albuquerque Ambulance Service, he said.
After working as a paramedic, LaVolpa wasn’t sure what was next for him, but knew he always wanted to run a coffee shop, he said.
“From my time in the military and my time as a paramedic, I always appreciated a good strong cup of coffee,” LaVolpa said.
Prior to opening his business on July 1, LaVolpa had a coffee catering truck company for two years, which he still runs, he said.
Since DNA comes from both mom and dad, and since their business was a mom-and-pop shop, he and his wife intertwined their two worlds, yoga and coffee, prompting the name of their shop: Helix, he said.
LaVolpa enjoyed his time at UNM, finding that his degree in medicine actually was beneficial to the world of coffee, he said.
“My medicine degree really helped with coffee, because it lets you understand the chemical side of things,” LaVolpa said. “When you think about coffee, it’s really just a distillation process. That’s all coffee is. You’re adding water to a product to create a solute, and you’re distilling a solute, so it is really just another chemistry equation.”
Being close to the campus, the patrons of Helix Coffee and Yoga House are often students and instructors, and LaVolpa said the business makes a great study area.
“When I first walked in, that was the first thing I saw with the fireplace. I thought, ‘Man, that would be great to study next to,’” he said.
As a UNM student, LaVolpa always studied in coffee shops, he said.
“If I sit at home, I just clean house. I do not study,” LaVolpa said. “I have to go somewhere to study. And it was always coffee shops for me.”
Some patrons are former instructors from the School of Medicine, some of whom he had taken classes with as a student, LaVolpa said.
Being close to UNM also comes with the added bonus of being on the north side of Nob Hill, a place LaVolpa and his wife always liked, he said.
“We’ve always liked the community,” LaVolpa said. “We just wanted to do something here and the community has just been great, absolutely wonderful.”
Going from being a paramedic to a business owner was a trial by fire, he said.
While certain skills he acquires as a paramedic translated well to becoming a coffee owner, such as prioritization, troubleshooting and risk management, the change of environment was something he had to adjust to, LaVolpa said.
“Here you work with a lot of people, and it’s not under a stressful environment, so you got to be a lot nicer than when I was a paramedic,” he said. “Sharpening my people skills set was something I had to work on.”
Helix Coffee House and Yoga has already begun establishing strong ties with the UNM community, with one of their yoga instructors starting the UNM Yoga Club, LaVolpa said.
Aside from these connections, the coffee house will be introducing Friday forums where people can discuss social topics such as climate change and minimum wage, a practice that was once a coffee house staple but has been fading with the rise of social media, he said.
“People will be able to stand up, speak, have their say. It’s just like debating: two minutes to talk,” he said.
As an entrepreneur, LaVolpa said he advises students to get into the routine of good habits.
“If you can learn to do things habitually, then you get yourself ahead,” LaVolpa said. “You live a life of proactivity as opposed to reactivity. Anytime you can get a proactive skill set, you’re going to do a lot better.”
Nichole Harwood is a news and culture beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers alumni and art features. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @Nolidoli1.