Java Anyone?

A roundup of black-owned coffeehouses

People don’t just drink coffee at coffeehouses anymore, especially in black communities. They’ve become the new place to socialize, network, and to be entertained. Black-owned java joints are popping up all over the country. Starbucks shops owned in part by Magic Johnson are some of the most thriving. Now in 19 cities, located in black communities, Johnson’s Starbucks are disproving the myth that black people wouldn’t patronize coffeehouses. In fact, Johnson’s Starbucks are pulling in sales that have surpassed the company’s expectations.

But Starbucks isn’t the only game in town. There’s the popular Lucy Florence Coffeehouse (4305 Degnan Blvd.; 323-393-9395) in Leimert Park, L.A.’s black arts neighborhood. Locals frequent this coffeehouse run by identical twins Richard and Ron Harris for poetry, music, and community functions-and, of course, coffee. Over in Watts, Desirée Edwards has brought an old community favorite back to life. In its former life the Watts Coffee House (1827 East 113th St.; 323-249-4343) was a community cultural center that opened after the Watts riots of 1965. Edwards reopened the shop in 1997. In 1998, however, she decided to renovate the site and closed for a two-year, $150,000 makeover. Reopened in November 2000, the Watts Coffee House is serving up gourmet coffee by Howling Monk (a black-owned coffee company), offering breakfast and lunch, and hosting blues, gospel and poetry every fourth Sunday.

Up in Portland, Oregon, Edwina Wasson and husband Ronald Taylor opened Stellar Coffee (6003 N.E., Martin Luther King Blvd.; 503-289-8118) in April 1999. Hundreds of coffee drinkers a day come in for mocha lattes, Stellar’s trademark Icepresso (an iced espresso), or to customize their own drink with the 60 flavors Stellar offers. “We have the most drink offerings in the city,” boasts Wasson. Besides its creative drinks, Stellar also boasts a unique decor. Housed in a former service station, the multicolored building, which is primarily purple and gold, has a 20-foot tower. Inside, Stellar exhibits the works of local black artists.

Brooklyn, New York, is also host to a few African American coffeehouses, such as Ntozake Lundy’s four-year-old Muddy Waters (669 Vanderbilt Ave.; 718-636-7349) in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights. Over in another part of Brooklyn, Monique Greenwood, editor of Essence Magazine, and her husband, Glenn Pogue, opened Mirrors (401 Lewis Ave.; 718-774-1444) in August 2000. The coffeehouse is decorated with mirrors and antiques and has become a community meeting place.

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