Nepali Immigrant Established a Café in Baltimore County

Narayan Khakurel

Owner, Coffee Talk Café

Narayan Khakurel grew up in a farming community in rural Nepal, where his family raised cattle and crops like tobacco and sugarcane. He never felt particularly deprived but, looking back, he recalls walking to school barefoot and not being able to afford a book bag.

Today, though, Khakurel is a college graduate and the owner of Coffee Talk Cafe in downtown Towson, and his young daughters are thriving in the local public schools. “I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to build a life here in Maryland,” he says.

It’s been a long journey. After gaining degrees in commerce in Nepal and hospitality studies in Singapore, Khakurel traveled to over 30 countries, including parts of Europe, the United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong to gain work experience in the service industry. He also traveled to the United States, where his deaf brother was studying at Montgomery College in Rockville. There, he met a local restaurant owner who offered to sponsor his green card and hire Khakurel to support his food and beverage operations team.  

While Khakurel waited for his visa to be processed, he returned to Kathmandu and opened several successful coffee shops. Then in 2015, disaster struck: a huge earthquake razed much of the city, including Khakurel’s shops, forcing him to close his businesses.  

Fortunately, soon afterward his green card finally came through. Khakurel returned to the United States, first supporting restaurant operations in Virginia, then moving to Towson to start Coffee Talk Cafe in 2016. At first, he didn’t need much help from local organizations. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, local government agencies helped him access the loans and grants he needed to stay in business. The Towson Chamber of Commerce also stepped up, using social media and hosting events to encourage local residents to support businesses like Coffee Talk Cafe.

During the worst of the pandemic, Khakurel spent 13 hours a day driving an Uber and Lyft in order to pay rent and prevent the cafe from going under. “It was a real struggle,” he says. But with a Small Business Association loan, support from other local businesses, and the backing of Maryland’s 20,000-strong Nepali-American community, he was able to stay in business.

Today Coffee Talk Cafe is bustling, and Khakurel is seeking to hire new workers to support his two-person team. He is grateful for the community’s support and has chosen to repay that debt by supporting other local entrepreneurs. He purchases all the café’s food, from coffee beans to bread and ice-cream, from businesses in and around Baltimore County. “We want to make a contribution to the community,” he explains. “Every day is a challenge for an entrepreneur, but I feel incredibly lucky that our doors are still open.”

Last modified: 
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Publication Date: 
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