At age 23 and fresh out of college, Shaunie Grigsby came to Minnesota to attend graduate school and figure out a direction for her life. Now, at 30, she is the owner and CEO of Flava Coffee & Café, an anchor for a new development at the intersection of University Avenue and Dale Street.

Hers is another welcome presence at a once-notorious corner in the Frogtown neighborhood where peep shows have been replaced by restaurants and a public library.

Eye On St. Paul recently sat down with Grigsby, a Detroit native with an ever-present smile, to talk about how she got here, her goals and what she plans to do with the next five years of her life. This interview was edited for length.

Q: What brought you to Minnesota?

A: I had a friend here who knew about a grad program at the U. All I knew about Minnesota was from watching the movie "Fargo." I thought, "It looks really cold." I kind of took a chance.

I got on a plane with a couple dollars in my bank account. And in the fall of 2014, I came for a master's of education. I also got a job in development at the Y and got really involved in my church.

That was my world — work, school and, you know, trying to figure out how to build friendships. And making friends wasn't the easiest thing is what I learned as an adult.

Q: How does one do that?

A: You've just got to find your people, find the people that like the things that you like.

Q: How did you shift from doing development work at the Y to to being an entrepreneur?

A: I've always had this idea that I've been working on since undergrad of opening a community center. Of opening a nonprofit. And that idea started when I was probably a junior in college. So then I started grad school, and learned a lot about community development. And then an opportunity came up [to learn about entrepreneurship].

Q: Describe this coffee shop and your goals.

A: I think of it as kind of a dream space. I get to come here and dream up a bunch of wonderful things that I want to do and I hope that other people feel that way about it, too. I get a lot of feedback about just how excited people are to have this space here. To see this corner transformed. I've heard a lot about what used to be here years ago and what it means to have a coffee shop in the area that people can call home and use for community meetings or social gatherings.

I think this place feels a little like home. We've got customers who come in and take their shoes off and hang out on the couch. They feel very welcome here and really appreciate the space that we've created.

Q: What have these few months being open been like for you?

A: I would say it's been like a roller coaster [laughs]. Just in terms of getting the space ready. That was a lot of physical labor. But I had a good crew of friends who helped me move in, who helped me put furniture together. A lot of community members offered the posters we have on the wall.

Q: Why do you think the community has been so willing to embrace this, and you?

A: I think this is something that they wanted. And so when people feel ownership, they think they want to see the thing survive. And as for me? I don't know. I guess they have an appreciation for the person who created this space. I'm also, like, a pretty cool person. [laughs]

Q: You said "roller coaster." What have been the down times?

A: I think just not having time to build community relationships outside of the space. That's been something that's been a challenge. But I expected to sacrifice for the first few years of the business.

Q: What's been the sacrifice?

A: Travel. Family. It's been difficult to fit into the schedule. I'm hoping to eventually get to that at some point. I only have my mom and my niece here in Minnesota. But I still have family who lives out of state. I don't get to see them as often as I used to.

Also, this is my first business. So operating the space has been a learning curve. I try to give myself some grace. Fortunately, I have the support of [the Neighborhood Development Center] and their consultants have helped me with a lot of questions that I have.

Q: What's been the most joyful thing to hear from customers?

A: [Pauses] I think the thing that gets most said is they are happy we're here. Sometimes it's really overwhelming to kind of take in other people's energy, even though I know that it's a really good thing, a really positive thing. It's definitely an affirmation that you're doing something right.

Q: Your coffee is good. Where did you get it from?

A: Gus Dean, he's a coffee roaster out of Eagan.

Q: What do you want to be at 35?

A: More community events. And mentorship. Helping young people achieve their dreams. That's what I got and I want to find a way to do that for young people.