A local nonprofit is taking over the vacant coffee shop space in the Minneapolis Central Library with the intention of serving young people in addition to customers looking for a caffeine boost.
Mobilizing And Releasing Caring Hearts Inc. (MARCH) plans to open Mocha Momma’s Coffee in late April in the former Dunn Brothers Coffee space at 300 Nicollet Mall.
It’s been a long time coming. Melanie Leehy, founder of MARCH and a native of Minneapolis, has dreamed for three decades of opening a fully functional coffee shop where young people can receive mentorship and learn valuable life and job skills such as professionalism and customer service. She won a bid to bring it to fruition before the pandemic struck the United States in March 2020, effectively halting the project until she signed a lease at the end of November.
“Our mentoring efforts will be concentrated on African-American youth, who frequently face educational and financial disparities similar to those seen in the Minnesota paradox,” Leehy explained. “However, we want to do more than mentor them and teach them job and life skills; we want to run an exceptional coffee shop. That is critical for me to model and pass on to this generation.”
She believes that a cafe is the ideal format because coffee is both social and creative, allowing participants aged 16 to 24 to earn money and have fun while developing lifelong skills. Each of them will be paired with a mentor and a career advocate who will assist them in exploring options beyond the coffee shop.
To begin, Leehy and a group of experienced baristas will lead Mocha Momma’s, before layering in the young people participating in the mentorship programme.
Leehy, whose middle name is March, previously directed a downtown Anoka programme called the Dwelling Coffee House and oversaw Bordertown Coffee, a nonprofit cafe in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota campus.
Mocha Momma’s will serve grab-and-go breakfast and lunch items, including those from Solomon’s Bakery, as well as coffee from True Stone Coffee Roasters in St. Paul.
“This has been a journey spanning many, many years, and to be able to witness something like this unfold right in my backyard, my epicentre of growth, I’m overjoyed to be able to give back to the community,” Leehy said.
A faith-based organisation founded in 1990 and headquartered in Minneapolis Since 2007, MARCH has taken a holistic approach to community outreach in the neighbourhoods surrounding Minneapolis, with a particular emphasis on North Minneapolis.
Mocha Momma’s proceeds will benefit MARCH and will ultimately benefit the community.