More than coffee and homemade cakes, the main brand of Sabelucha coffee, in Bexiga, were the photos, posters and flags with phrases and images of Lula and the PT. Not to mention the charisma of the owner, Segismundo Bruno, of course.
It was not even necessary to enter the place, in the central region of São Paulo, to love it — if you were sympathetic to the left — or even hate it and avoid it — if it was part of the anti-PT group.
From the street it was already possible to see the items in shades of red, the photos of Lula and Dilma Rousseff, the slogans against figures such as Michel Temer, Eduardo Cunha and Jair Bolsonaro and other objects that lent the house a little of the personality of Bruno, who founded the business alongside his sister, Maria Imaculada, in 1993.
The name is a tribute to Isabela’s grandmother, also called Isabelucha or just Sabelucha. But, in the end, it ended up becoming Bruno’s own nickname, who was known on the streets of the neighborhood as Bruno Sabelucha.
With his death at the end of 2020, the future of coffee was uncertain. “Many people thought it was closed because of the pandemic, but in fact we were renovating”, says Cristiana Novaes Silva, who now runs the place with her husband, Manoel de Jesus.
Owner of the 13 de Maio canteen and pizzeria, a few meters away, the couple took over the project shortly after the death of the former owner. Silva says that there were many people interested in the stitch, but as her husband had a friendship with Bruno, the family gave preference to them. “We don’t buy, we rent. The building is still theirs. It was an agreement we made.”
Sabelucha reopened its doors a month ago, on April 19, under new management. But apart from the address, the counter and the espresso machine, everything has changed. There is no longer the PT decoration or the objects linked to the left. “I’m not going to link the cafe to a party”, comments Silva. “Bruno was one person, I’m another. In his time, people who are against the PT didn’t come here — but I don’t want that.” In her words, Bruno had more of a fun place there. “And I want to make money.”
The new house now has a decor that follows contemporary design, in wood tones and with a wall of artificial plants, which serves as a frame for the sign. The menu proposal has also changed – today, explains the owner, there is a gourmet coffee shop.
“Before, there was more brigadeiro, terry towel cake and coffee, right? Today we have gourmet coffee, other types of cakes, sweet and savory”, he lists. But there’s still the trio of coffee, brigadeiro and terry towel for the homesick.
When counting the changes made, she reveals a concern to respect the memory of the former owner. “I didn’t even want to paint the walls, because Bruno himself had painted it. But the family said it was ok”, she says.
Despite giving the space its own face, the new owners keep a kind of memorial of the former Sabelucha on one of the walls, with photos of Bruno. “I want to put a lot of pictures of him there”, reveals Silva. “Every day people come here asking about him, saying he misses him.”
One of Bexiga’s legendary figures, Bruno now also baptizes two libraries on the same street, on the 13th of May. One of them is dedicated to children’s literature, the Segismundo Bruno library, which shares space with the Faz de Conta bookstore and the headquarters of the publishing house Ôzé, in the blue house at number 515.
The other is inside Canhota Mercearia, at number 772. At the back of the store, a small plaque identifies the mini-library Segismundo Bruno “Sabelucha”, with books on political education.
And it’s not just the library’s theme that recalls the cafe’s former owner. The store was also born expressing its political position on the left, with t-shirts, mugs and flags stamped with Lula’s face, the PT star and the MST symbol, for example – in a way, becoming a political heiress in the old quarter. Sabelucha less than 200 meters away.
Open during the pandemic, the grocery store occupies the space that used to be the Catzo bar, which closed its doors. Carlos Milhomem, owner of the place, created the business at a time when bars and restaurants could not work due to measures to combat the coronavirus. “Today is what pays the bills,” he says, despite not hiding his nostalgia for the bar.
Over there, the business strategy is niche and gives up the bolsonarista and anti-PT consumer to position itself politically, just as Bruno did. “We don’t have anything produced by multinationals”, says Milhomem, stressing that the store’s public also finds organic items from small producers, such as coffee, rice, olive oil and beer. While commenting this, he serves a coffee in an old Sabelucha cup.
“It was Maria, Bruno’s sister, who gave it to me. The cafe had been closed for a while, and we tried to rent the point. But the family said they were talking to other people”, says Milhomem. “Until one day she came here and brought me this cup as a gift, saying that she rented the cafe to someone else.”