The new Trailblazer Café at Stinson Municipal Airport is dedicated not only to the aviation pioneers of the past, but also to the pioneers of the present and the future. And, there’s a juicy, stacked burger to go with it.
The restaurant, which serves a full menu including burgers, sandwiches, salads, smoothies and coffee seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., is part of a revitalization plan to connect the historic airport to its surrounding community of Southside.
An engine of opportunity
The Trailblazer Café is the brainchild of Joshua Smith, a pilot and army veteran who earlier this year noticed a vacant space in the southwest corner of the Stinson Terminal with west-facing windows overlooking the airfield runways.
Smith came up with the idea for a new business venture that could link existing aviation education programs at Stinson with new entry-level career opportunities for young people interested in aviation, technical fields and entrepreneurship.
Smith enlisted the help of his restaurateur brother James Cochran and former Army colleague William Osinski, who helped flesh out the concept and build community support.
“We spoke with the community and asked what their interest was in being able to support an initiative like this, and it was just an outpouring of support from everyone,” Smith said. “We were looking to try to support the community first, and then the business aspect was going to be our driving force to be able to do that.”
San Antonio Pioneers
Olga Custodio, a retired US Air Force lieutenant-colonel, opened up several leads.
Custodio has the distinction of being the United States Army’s first Latina pilot, American Airlines’ first Latina commercial airline captain, and the first instructor pilot of the T-38 Talon supersonic jet at Lackland Air Force Base in Del Rio and at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio.
“When I saw the coffee initiative proposal, I knew it would be a great opportunity for the airport, our city and our community,” said Custodio, who works with women’s pilot organization The Ninety. -Nines, Women in International Aeronautics and the Commemorative Air Force, among other groups that supported the effort.
The cafe’s name honors the pioneering Stinson family, who founded the Stinson School of Flying in 1915. Katherine Stinson was the fourth woman in the United States to receive a pilot’s license and was the first female pilot to fly a loop-the-loop, according to Matt Evans, arts, culture and music specialist for the City of San Antonio Department of Aviation.
ready to work
Smith said the cafe will also support the pioneers of the future, partnering with the City of San Antonio’s Ready to Work workforce development initiative to provide meaningful entry-level jobs for young Southside San Antonians ready to start a career.
His wife and Trailblazer Café co-owner Stephanie Smith said she is focused on hiring Palo Alto students studying for careers in aviation, culinary arts, computer science and horticulture. A room is set up at the back with tables and laptops so that employees can follow their courses during their shifts. Smith said she always wanted her employees’ jobs at the cafe to pass after they achieved their education and their dreams.
“They’re kids with a passion for aviation, and we thought, here’s a great opportunity for us to start a business in a place that keeps an eye on the prize and closer to their adult mentors,” her husband said.
Located in a working airfield, the café will serve as a hub for young people graduating from enrichment programs run by aviation organizations that encourage young people to explore opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. By taking jobs at the cafe, they will stay close to their airfield mentors while learning new skills.
While an interest in aviation brought new employees Chastity Banda and Xero Amaro to Stinson, both are also interested in pursuing the culinary arts. Working in the cafe, they’ll help make offerings like the Hen Solo Chicken Salad Sandwich (named after Star Wars flyboy Han Solo), Beet Goes On Beet Salad, and the Call Me Old Fashioned Burger.
Outside of the kitchen, Jose Cabrera will bring his computer background to work as an information systems specialist, and Andrena Shirk will work as a curator, linking the restaurant to its surroundings through informative historical exhibits and programming. .
Shirk graduated from Southside High School and is currently studying to become a museum curator at Palo Alto College, with a focus on archeology and ancient history. She said when Cabrerra told her about the opening of Trailblazer, “I thought it would be a really good opportunity to broaden my horizons on other areas of history.”
Custodio said the cafe’s focus on mentorship is key to supporting future pioneers.
“I had to blaze my own trail. There was no path, so I had to create my own. But I made sure that the people I surrounded myself with were supportive of my mission and my dream,” she said.
Helping to build support for the Trailblazer Café “is an opportunity for me to give back to the community, to the country, to young students, men or women, who have big dreams,” Custodio said.
Photojournalist Bria Woods contributed to this report.