Mom-preneur Spotlight: Lainey Richler’s Cafe Alma, A Slice of Israel in Cincinnati

Lainey Richler is happiest on a Sunday morning. Israeli techno bumps in the background, and the cry of “Runner!” from the kitchen promises that something delicious will soon arrive at someone’s table. Families chat, the steamers hiss as another latte is made, and Richler, surveying it all, smiles as she walks through the restaurant her family owns, Cafe Alma. 

“We want people to want people to feel transported to a place that’s so completely different from Cincinnati, but also a feeling that it’s home,” said Richler.

Originally from Cincinnati, Richler moved to Israel after high school and spent ten years there. She met her future brother-in-law in the Israeli army, who eventually introduced her to her future husband, Yair. Yair’s family was already running a cafe in Israel, and the couple seriously considered opening another branch of the successful business after army life. Yet, the desire to start a family called the couple back home to Cincinnati.

The decision to move back to Richler’s hometown was, in part, to be close to family as they began their own. At the same time, it was a calculated move to balance personal and professional aspirations —a heartfelt return to family and a bold entrepreneurial venture to bring a slice of Israeli café culture to Cincinnati.

While in Israel, Richler took a nutritional medicine course with her mother-in-law, which revolutionized her perspective on food. She knew she wanted to bring the idea of ‘food as medicine’ to Cincinnati.

“I wanted to show that you didn’t have to add extra sugar, salt, and oil to everything,” said Richler. “We wanted to go back to the basics of what food really is.”

Richler’s passion for Israel, family, and food blossomed into Cafe Alma– though making this dream a reality was no small feat. 

“We just dove into it,” said Richler. “We opened the cafe when our first child was just nine months old, and I was already pregnant with our second.”

Though the challenges of having a young family and working at a cafe were immense, the response from the community was unwavering and encouraging. Richler said she baby-wore her little one around the café during the first few years, symbolizing their 24/7 commitment to their family and business. 

“In those early days, we were counting every penny,” said Richler, who said she and her husband often took on multiple roles themselves to minimize costs. Yet, as the business grew, they realized the importance of delegating and investing in both staff that could allow a separation between cafe life and family life.

The heart of Café Alma isn’t just in its menu but in the atmosphere and community it fosters. From the eclectic furniture and antique chairs to the tchotchkes and greenery, every detail is a nod to the Richlers’ vision of creating a home away from home. 

“We want it to feel like it’s someone’s living room,” said Richler with a laugh.

The menu is also a node to family and home life, featuring items named after family members, like “Mira’s Power Bowl” inspired by her eldest daughter’s love for lentils and sweet potatoes and the newly named “Dellacino”– a kid’s drink made of steamed soy milk.

“We very much wanted this place to be community centered and family centered–especially for young families,” said Richler. 

The cafe hosts a variety of family-friendly events, from PG-13 comedy nights to inclusive drag shows, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy well before bedtime. 

The need to provide a space for fun, healthy food, and friendships for community families springs from her acknowledgment of all the community has done for her family.

“I felt like people saw this young family with a dream and they were trying to make it work,” said Richler. “And I felt like the community really rose up and responded to that.”