Coffee shops have long been a peaceful environment for Shaunie Grigsby — the sounds of beans grinding, people talking and a great playlist in the background, the aroma of coffee, and the friendships that can form.
Grigsby will soon serve up the lattes and sweet mochas she's perfected on her home espresso machine at Flava Café, which will become the first Black-owned coffee shop in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood this October.
The coffee shop will be the anchor business at Frogtown Crossroads, a commercial and residential development on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Dale Street. It will also offer a career-readiness and personal development program for girls, transgender and nonbinary youth of color ages 16 to 24.
Young women will have opportunities to build their resumes through all aspects of the business, from working behind the counter or in the kitchen to marketing and community engagement, said Grigsby, who hopes the program will address disparities in employment for youth of color.
In addition to Flava Café, the development will house five or six other businesses, 40 units of affordable family housing and the Neighborhood Development Center headquarters and entrepreneur training center, said Ben Johnson, senior director of real estate for the center.
When Grigsby relocated to the Twin Cities five years ago from Detroit, she learned about the history of the Black community in Rondo and Frogtown.
"I always wanted to open my space where the community members look like me," Grigsby said.
She never could have predicted that she would be taking steps to open a business during a year of racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd. But she feels it's needed.
Following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Floyd, "there was a craving for spaces that centered Black folks in the Twin Cities," Grigsby said.
"A space where we could show up in all of our pain, anger and grief to process, organize or just be mad as hell without the presence of judgment or micro-aggressive commentary."
Since finishing graduate school, Grigsby, who lives in north Minneapolis, has spent the past four years working in youth development at the YWCA St. Paul.
She plans to combine her passion for youth development with her love for coffee culture.
"I was thinking about my retirement plan and I was like, I just want to open a coffee shop. I want it to be welcoming, I want to be friendly. I just want to do something that I enjoy every day," Grigsby said.
Grigsby has set a crowdfunding goal of $10,000 to assist in the buildout of the cafe, which is set to open this fall. So far, she has raised more than $7,500.
She's excited about the location in part because of the cafe's proximity to where many of the young people she worked with at the YWCA live.
"The community has been asking for a coffee shop in the neighborhood for some time, and we are thrilled about Flava Café opening at Frogtown Crossroads," Johnson said.
The name Flava Café came out of Grigsby's love for all things '90s. Many of her friendships were modeled after the show "Living Single," which focuses on a woman who runs a culture magazine called "Flavor." It felt right to borrow that name, and of course add more flavor, she said, by taking off the "o" and "r" and adding an "a."
"I felt like it was very much aligned with what I wanted to do. I'm adding my own flavor to my youth development approach, also to the cafe culture space. I'm adding my own twist to it. I thought it was fitting for me to kind of stick with that," Grigsby said.
Zoë Jackson • 612-673-7112