When LaShante ‘Shaunie’ Grigsby moved to Minnesota for graduate school, she had a hard time finding a local coffee shop where she felt at home. By the time she became a Minnesota transplant, Shaunie had lived in what she calls “some of the Blackest cities” in the country — including Atlanta and Detroit.
“Entering the coffee landscape here, it was very white to be honest. It didn’t feel like I had a stake in it. Nothing about it said ‘this is a place where you belong.’”
So, she set out to change the landscape. In the fall of 2021, Shaunie will be opening Flava Café at 623 University Avenue in St. Paul. Hers will be the first Black woman-owned coffee shop in the Frogtown neighborhood.
This summer, Shaunie has been a fixture at the West Broadway Farmers Market (WBFM). When she applied to become a market vendor, she wasn’t sure she belonged. “I’m not selling consumable goods. I didn’t know if I was the right fit,” she says. She started out selling coffee mugs and t-shirts. Then people asked: ‘Where’s the coffee?’ So she added pre-prepared cold brew and ground beans to her market mix.
Shaunie sources her beans from Gus Dean Coffee, a Black-owned business in Eagan, Minnesota. She has met other Black vendors at the WBFM, including some whose products she wants to incorporate into her recipes for Flava’s Café’s menu. She loves the seasonings from Shake Down Rubs and the salts and pickles from Deedee’s Foods. Supporting other BIPOC business owners is a way for Shaunie to realize a bigger vision for Flava Café.
“Part of the Flava motto is to dream radically,” she says. For Shaunie, that means not letting other people’s ideas limit how she views her life and what’s possible. Shaunie is a youth development practitioner by training, and being a food entrepreneur is completely new to her. Her connection to the WBFM has helped with the transition, and she’s grateful for that. “This was my first experience at a farmers market in terms of vending. DeVon and the youth team from Appetite For Change have been phenomenal. They were teaching as well as supporting me. I appreciate that as a new entrepreneur who doesn’t know where I fit in sometimes.”
Learn more about Shaunie Grigsby and Flava Café at flavacafe.org and follow @flavacafemn
Every Friday from 3-7pm through the summer and fall we gather fresh food, goods, and music at the West Broadway Farmers Market. We’re featuring vendors who are proud members of the North Minneapolis community! We believe what’s produced on the Northside should be sold and shared on the Northside. Come through!