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Four entrepreneurs are aiming to stimulate a Shreveport neighborhood with their new enterprise, Neef’s Coffee Corner.
Neef’s Coffee Corner debuted in its soft opening phase on Sept. 14 at 1958 Milam St. in Shreveport. The coffee shop is in the Allendale neighborhood, across from Booker T. Washington High School.
The owners Jeremy Lee, Dione Simmons, Shika Sims, and Glenn Taylor chose the location, seeing a need and an opportunity to be “a beacon in the community” and “bring families and communities together one brew at a time.”
“We’re more than just a coffee shop,” Sims said.
The team is more than business partners, as well. Sims and Lee are first cousins, biologically, however, the four are closely connected spiritually through their church ministry and consider each other family members. The tight-knit bond is what inspired the name of their business and their mission.
In addition to selling a variety of coffees and pastries, the cafe is presented as a place for revitalizing the predominantly Black neighborhood, empowering its residents, and celebrating African culture.
“We’re not saying no one else can come to our coffee shop but we want our people to know—this is here for you,” Sims said.
“We built this for our people to have something,” Lee said.
Neef’s Coffee Corner is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Hours are subject to change after the grand opening. Orders are available for carryout or curbside pick-up only.
The grand opening celebration will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. The event will include music, art, food, entertainment, and coffee—masks are required to attend.
Grounded by family
Each of the entrepreneurs owns and operates established businesses in various industries, including real estate and personal assistant, power-washing, credit repair, and cleaning services.
Yet, coffee was a shared point of interest they could all relate to going back to their familial foundations.
“Coffee is a staple even in the African American community,” Sims said. “I know some of my younger cousins have been drinking coffee with their parents and grandparents since they were little. Coffee is a good centerpiece for conversation, community, family—pour a cup of coffee with your friends.”
The anecdote is relatable across the group, as they all have fond memories of coffee being the source for bringing families together.
“I started drinking coffee with my grandmother when I was about six,” Lee said. “My mom would drop us off in the morning. I’d find my way to the kitchen [to have] a conversation with my grandmother. I started drinking then, just building a relationship with my grandmother.”
The partners’ love for coffee has evolved into a passion and a profession. They have invested themselves in learning the craft to become coffee connoisseurs. Sims’ spent many years working as a barista for a chain coffee company widening her knowledge and developing her skills.
Opening Neef’s Coffee Corner allows them to share their coffee interest with the public while embracing the tradition of uniting over a freshly brewed cup.
“That’s our mission—to bring community, family, culture all together in one big pot of coffee. It is a centerpiece for us to get the conversation started,” Sims said.
On the menu
The menu features a variety of hot and iced coffees and teas, lattes, mochas, macchiatos, flavored lemonades, dessert bites, and more. Muffins, cookies, cupcakes, and sliced cake are some of the featured sweet treats.
On brand, the menu features items with names and inspirations reflecting African and Black American culture. An Americano coffee is referred to as “Afrikano.” And the blackberry lemonade is named T’Challa, in homage to Marvel’s “Black Panther” character played by the recently deceased actor Chadwick Boseman.
“We’re all about culture,” Sims said. “We want people to be proud of who they are.”
Guests learn other lingo changes when ordering, such as to ask for a “Cup of Joe” instead of a hot coffee and for “Cool Beans” if wanting an iced coffee.
The partners take pride in the quality of the 100% Columbian roasts that elevate the sipping experience.
“The taste is absolutely smooth,” Lee said. “Normally, I have to have cream and sugar. I can drink this coffee black because it’s that smooth.”
Besides hot coffee, the French Vanilla iced coffee is his favorite, he said. Another crowd-pleaser is the Blueberry Delight coffee.
“We usually drink it with donuts because it reminds us a lot of a blueberry cobbler,” Lee said.
Taylor is the man behind the macchiatos. He enjoys making them as much as he enjoys drinking them.
“I love macchiatos. Here, I’m like the specialty guy who makes all the macchiatos,” Taylor said. “I love the richness of the flavor of the coffee. I’m not a hot coffee drinker, so the ice-cold macchiatos hit me real hard and get me going.”
Coffee bags are available for purchase for at-home brewing.
Opening a Black-owned business in Allendale is a great investment in its future. The Shreveport natives have watched the neighborhood struggle and dwindle over the years. Introducing a coffee shop to the area is a step in a positive direction.
“We saw a need for something new—something innovative—for this community, especially the African American community,” Sims said. “We were overwhelmed with seeing all the liquor stores and chicken joints. To bring something new to the community is the whole goal.”
Taylor recalls being a child and walking with his mother to shop at Black-owned stores. There’s been a drastic decrease in businesses open, he said. As adults, the partners are united in changing the landscape and mindset of Allendale.
“It does our heart well for us to be back in this rich community bringing it back up to speed and to light and technology and family and culture,” Taylor said. “We’re a beacon of light for this community to show people we can make it together as Black people, we can come up together, [and] we don’t have to live in poverty.”
Neef’s Coffee Corner is meant to be as much a social gathering place as it is a destination for education and advancement. Simmons welcomes the idea of residents coming to the coffee shop with their ideas, business plans, and questions.
“We want to bring in and bridge the community as much as possible and help in whatever ways we can help,” Simmons said. “We definitely will be doing community-oriented things to get people to come out and maybe even educate more people in this area about coffee and business and how your dreams can be manifested, as well.”
Neef’s Coffee Corner is set up to support it all.
The building, located on the corner of Milam Street and Elder Street, is believed to have been a grocery store in the 1950s or 60s, and more recently a campaign office, a snack shop, restaurant, and a t-shirt store, they said. The storefront has entrances for two businesses, but the coffee shop takes over both sides.
One half is set up with the ordering counter and prep space. A hallway leads to a common room with tables and chairs for a quiet, relaxed visit alone or with others. Further back there is a conference room that can be reserved for meetings and gatherings.
“Then we have the other side that’s full of culture, color, and it’s vibrant,” Sims said. “We have a reading room on that side and we’ll have a gift shop. The vision is that you can come to either side or we can meet in the middle if you wanted to.”
The owners will ease into hosting events, roundtable discussions, and forging partnerships with other local businesses and organizations.
Their proximity to Booker T. Washington High School welcomes the idea for collaborations with the school, such as a work-study program and providing exhibition space for students’ art, Simmons said.
The growth will be gradual, but they are accustomed to exercising patience when operating a business during a pandemic.
Slow drips in the coffee biz
Building the revenue to open brick and mortar was a slow, but steady process since the partners decided to 100% fund the enterprise.
“We started this company with our own, personal money,” Sims said. “We didn’t get a loan from a bank. We worked hard and put the money in a pot to get it going.”
The partners used the time to introduce their products to consumers at pop-up marketplaces. They also took the opportunity to travel across the region on self-guided coffee tours to visit other shops to learn more about the trade.
Initially, the partners planned an early 2020 debut. However, the COVID-19 pandemic was a primary cause for a delayed opening date. It continues to limit what they can do to fully service customers. For now, the common spaces are closed and only carryout and curbside ordering are available.
After the grand opening, the building will begin to open to the public in stages, according to pandemic health and sanitation protocols.
Then, all are invited to drop in and stay awhile.
“Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, we’ve got something for you,” Sims said. “I want them to come if they’re having a bad day or just not feeling their best to come and leave differently. We’re all spiritual beings. I want to love on people and give them a takeaway when they leave the coffee shop, outside of the purchase.”
If you go
What: Neef’s Coffee Corner
Where: 1958 Milam St., Shreveport
Soft opening hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.