Jessica Coelho '06 established her popular downtown restaurant in 2013.
Star Store, the College of Visual & Performing Arts' downtown campus, is an essential part of New Bedford's renaissance as a thriving cultural community. And every great community needs great places to eat.
Down the street and around the corner from the Star Store, at 42 North Water Street, you’ll find a quaint European café known as Tia Maria's.
Making downtown a dining destination
The popular establishment, founded by Jessica Coelho '06, is one of a growing number of eateries that are making downtown a dining destination. Since opening in September 2013, the café has become a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
Born and raised in New Bedford, Coelho graduated from UMassD’s Charlton College of Business with a BS in human resource management and an international business certificate.
When she was seeking a home for her café, the city’s cobblestone streets and architecture reminded her of Portugal, where she interned and studied as a UMassD student. So she bought the 1830s building that was once home to Millennium PCB Bank and later an Irish coffee house.
Old World charm & family ties
"The building reminded me of my own Tia Maria," she said. "The Old World charm makes me feel like I’m entering her house."
Coelho adorned the walls with décor inherited from generations of her family: "I like to say that my customers feel like they’re visiting Portugal without the expense of a plane ticket."
She knew its name would resonate with New Bedford’s large Portuguese population, for whom the word "tia" means aunt.
"Everyone has a Tia Maria," she said. "I have four and the name is an homage to them all."