BY PETER DORFMAN
As daytime manager, Victor Kaposonore is the face of the Uptown Cafe for breakfast and lunchtime diners. “We want it to be a casual place where everyone feels welcome,” he says. “I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
Kaposonore, 42, came to the United States from his native Zimbabwe as an Indiana University freshman in the fall of 1996, arriving on his 21st birthday. His academic career got off to an awkward start. Like most Zimbabweans studying abroad, he expected a government grant to cover his education, but he missed the deadline for awards. Then, economic crisis and hyperinflation descended on Zimbabwe. “As a result, the government canceled the following year’s grants,” Kaposonore says. “So I kind of found myself in limbo.”
To make matters worse, his student visa limited the hours he could work. IU made generous tuition concessions, and Kaposonore managed to complete his degree in recreation and tourism management through the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. He intended to work in travel and tourism in Zimbabwe. “But life made other plans,” he says.
After he met Uptown Cafe owner Michael Cassady through a fellow African student, Cassady took Kaposonore on for a year of “optional practical training,” a form of work allowed under student visas. In late 2000, Kaposonore got an internship with the Hyatt Regency hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. “They hired me after my internship,” he says. “Then 9/11 happened. Business ground to a halt. I rode out the downturn for three months, then moved back to Bloomington.”
Kaposonore worked at the Uptown for two months before taking a job with another Hyatt Regency in Chicago. Then, as he was nearing the expiration of his student visa, Cassady offered to help him acquire a work visa if he would return to the Uptown. Kaposonore has been a fixture at the downtown landmark ever since.
A semi-professional soccer player in Zimbabwe, Kaposonore is still passionate about the sport. In Bloomington, he has coached community soccer—serious, traveling Cutters teams as well as recreational teams—and at Bloomington High School North. In fact, it’s an important bond between Kaposonore and the Uptown owner. Four of Cassady’s six children have played soccer, and Kaposonore coached two of them.
“Michael has been very accommodating about my Uptown schedule,” Kaposonore says. “Because he’s a good friend, but also so I could coach his boys.”