Frogtown has a coffee shop again.
Over three years of planning culminated with the official opening of Flava Coffee and Cafe on Aug. 27, 2022 in the newly built Neighborhood Development Center at the corner of University and Dale.
It’s really exciting to be here,” said Flava owner Shaunie Grisby.
“I want it to feel like a little piece of home. I want it to be a space where people can be creative and imagine new things. Get comfortable, let their hair down, take a deep breath, and relax.”
Grisby grew up watching shows like “Moesha” in the 90s, and she wished for a coffee shop like The Den to go to. There were always Black youth hanging out, open mic nights, and community fundraisers. She loved “Living Single,” which focuses on a magazine called “Flavor” – and it seemed like the perfect name to build off of.
When Grisby began envisioning what her own coffee shop could be, she wanted that sense of nostalgia. “I wanted to create a space like that where people loved being,” said Grisby. “I wanted to have a space where I felt like I could be reflected.”
She took care in naming her drinks, and highlights leaders, creators and activists. She worked to match their lives with the complexities of the beverages. There’s the Baldwin (espresso and hot water), the bell hooks (espresso, brown sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon), the Nina Simone (espresso and dark chocolate), the Audre Lorde (cold brew, vanilla, cinnamon and honey cubes), and the Octavia Butler (masala chai).
The cafe at 623 University Ave. W. also serves ‘supa dupa’ breakfast burritos, sweet love pies, T.L.C. bagels, breakfast bowls, sandwiches and lunch bowls.
Grisby got in trouble in class, and her high school Spanish teacher assigned her a video to watch at home. She found she really enjoyed the Frida Kahlo story, and talking about it repaired her relationship with that teacher. It’s a lesson she hasn’t forgotten. She named one of her lunch bowls the Two Fridas (corn, black beans, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, sliced avocado and chipotle sauce).
Grisby hopes to add a Little Free Library at the coffee shop so that folks can take a book and/or leave one behind. A bookshelf in the center features diverse BIPOC authors both for adults and children.
Care is put into the music heard in the cafe. You might hear Jill Scott, Loco Hill, Annie Lennox, and Erykah Badu.
CAFE WITH A MISSION
The mission of Flava Coffee and Cafe extends beyond a cup of coffee and a sandwich. It is to build community through coffee and create opportunities for young women of color and gender-expansive youth by propelling them from coffee to career.
This mission has driven Grisby’s entire career.
Born in Detroit, Mich., Grisby now resides in the Camden neighborhood of north Minneapolis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from Clark Atlanta University, and her master of education from the University of Minnesota.
She has worked in Frogtown, Rondo and Selby for several years. In 2017, she took a job with the YWCA doing youth development, spearheading seven different programs that helped prepare girls for careers. She’s still there as a contractor, continuing work with the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota.
YWI-MN is a partnership between the Office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. The initiative brings together nonprofits, businesses, government, philanthropies, and young people to achieve equity in opportunities and improve the lives of young women and gender-expansive people of color, Indigenous people, young people from Greater Minnesota, LGBTQ youth, and young people with disabilities.
PUTTING A DREAM OUT THERE
Grisby has always loved coffee and says she knew at some point she wanted to open a coffee shop. Through her work at the Y, she took a group of young entrepreneurs through the 10-week startup incubator Co.Starters at the Hill in 2018. She created a business plan and tucked it in her back pocket as she wasn’t looking to start a business yet.
She applied for a nine-month fellowship program for social entrepreneurs with the FINNOVATION Lab, gaining skills in business management, leadership, and business development. As she built community with local social entrepreneurs, she was catapulted forward.
She began working with a business coach, who told her the Neighborhood Development Center was looking for a coffee shop. Then she met with NDC’s Natalia Hals just to chat.
“Sure, I’ll talk to them,” Grisby remembers saying. “I had no idea what I was getting into.”
She asked Sammy McDowell if she could shadow him at Sammy’s Avenue Eatery and learn the ropes. She was doing a 40-hour-a-week fellowship, 25 to 30 hours at the Y, and two days at Sammy’s.
“Networking is what got me here,” said Grisby. “It’s a little scary to put your dreams out there. It’s daunting to put myself out there.
“I’m grateful I did it.”
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Friday, November 11, 2022 Report this