A Black-owned coffee shop in Pennsylvania is seeking new ways to manage its business after gaining community support to keep the unique, community-minded facility open despite the coronavirus pandemic’s ongoing hurdles.
Blew Kind, the shop’s owner, first launched Franny Lou’s Porch in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in April 2005, with a “radical purpose” of community love and appreciation. Prior to the epidemic, the coffee shop was in the midst of a busy season with brisk catering and in-store sales. Kind told local news radio station News Radio KYW that it was also able to welcome artists and provide a platform for neighborhood craftspeople to market their wares.
When the epidemic hit the country last March, Franny Lou’s crew understood they’d have to adapt swiftly if they wanted to keep the firm open.
“We lost a week’s worth of food because it happened so quickly,” Kind said. “It was not being sold at the rate we were selling. We lost four to five thousand dollars just in wholesale catering orders.”
Chantelle Todman joined Franny Lou’s as a co-owner, inspired by the restaurant’s community ties and loyalty to its consumers, while the coffee shop scrambled to alter its business strategy.
Kind shuttered the coffee shop shortly after Todman joined the team, focusing on window-side to-go orders. Kind opened up the shop to customers with the support of her team and family in a method she believes will revolutionize consumer interactions in the future.
“I was so happy afterward that it was exactly what I saw in my mind,” she said. “We definitely had a loss, and I sat with it. But we’re starting a new chapter and going in a different direction, and I think we’ll be strong coming out of this.”
Kind, Todman, and Ashley Hurston, Franny Lou’s all-Black women leadership team, then worked to obtain ownership of the shop’s location in order to ensure its long-term existence.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘we have to make a move and try to buy this building,’” Todman said.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the group filed for grants and received one for $20,000, but Kind didn’t fulfill the criteria to qualify for federal assistance to help with the shop’s operations. Kind said she decreased hours at the cafe and established a GoFundMe campaign for her remaining 10 employees in order to keep as many of them working as possible.
“In the first part of the COVID [outbreak] and protests, we were gifted double what we asked to provide for our crew and losses,” she said, explaining that their GoFundMe surpassed the initial goal of $53,000 within two weeks. “We were able to raise over $60,000. It’s a reminder that what we are doing is more than a coffee and tea house. We are an intentional place that brings light. I’m happy that GoFundMe exists to be a trusted platform offering an avenue of communal connection and support.”
According to KYW, the group of Black women raised more than $86,000 on GoFundMe, surpassing their target. Kind said she is honored that her shop helps foster a feeling of community among residents, and she hopes that the company can continue to lift people up during difficult times.
“The world is getting more isolated and detached. However, we need each other to be healthy. My concern isn’t as much for the business, rather than the culture the world has been taking,” she said. “As a business, we are here to keep being a light of hope and connection.”
Franny Lou’s Porch, named after social activist Fannie Lou Hamer and writer Frances EW Harper, relies on appreciating the community that has helped it develop for more than 15 years, according to Kind.
“Trust in your community, make adjustments to your business to ensure that your community is loved on, so they will love on you in return,” she expressed.