Cafés Owned and Run by Women of Color

We spotlight several cafés in the United States that are run by female minorities.


Cover photo by the Intentionalist

In 2020, we are more excited than ever when we find a new business run by a diverse group of folks, whether they’re serving something from their own background or offering an innovative spin on something we all know and love. This week and next, we’ll be highlighting some of the many cafés throughout the United States that are run by women of color, as well as learning what they’re doing to contribute to the community they serve and beyond.

Crumbs & Whiskers was the first cat café to open in Washington, D.C., and has since expanded to Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers.

Crumbs & Whiskers – Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles

Founder and CEO Kanchan Singh was only 24 years old when she left her corporate finance job to pursue a passion project inspired by her travels through Thailand. She thus combined animal welfare, coffee, and business conscientiousness to start Crumbs & Whiskers in 2015—one of the first cat cafés to pop up in America. “I love connecting humans with animals!” Kanchan says. “It’s an amazing connection that we’re starting to lose in our crazy and busy lives.”

With the help of crowd-funding through Kickstarter, this stylish and chic cat café first opened in Washington, D.C., as the first of its kind there. Kanchan and her team now run a kitten café out of Los Angeles too, serving cortados and doses of feline affection to urbanites, along with plenty of neon photo sign opportunities. Similar to other animal cafés that now operate in the United States, Crumbs & Whiskers partners with local animal-focused nonprofits to function as a living space for foster cats until they are adopted. The company has since become an empire, hosting events like stand-up comedy and ugly sweater parties, along with kitten yoga sessions, too. We wish you the best of luck in resisting the temptation to bring a furry friend back home.

Resistencia Coffee’s Coté Soerens has made her café a space that’s run by the people. Photo by Kelly O. for City Arts Magazine.

Resistencia Coffee – Seattle

Chilean immigrant and Puentes founder Coté Soerens opened Resistencia Coffee in the developing Latinx neighborhood of South Park, Seattle, with the intention of “gente-fication,” or people-fication. “Have an awareness of what your impact is in the community. Work hard and be intentional about the community space when it’s yours, too,” Coté says. To do this, she offers a pay-it-forward gift card, a “Barista Brigade” job and business training program for youth, and a gated-off play area for children. The menu is filled with Latin-inspired ingredients and drinks like the cinnamon sugar “Xingona latte,” plus tasty empanadas. 

Since its official brick-and-mortar opening in 2018, Resistencia has become a café that serves a diverse range of people, too. “When I started talking about it, it was easy for people to think, ‘How cute, but are you actually gonna do it?’” Coté says. “I think it’s remarkable that in this day and age in Seattle, we were able to get a space that is occupied by people who represent the community.” Coté is serious about supporting this community too. The café regularly hosts open-mic nights and sells art and merchandise from local makers, plus founded the urban fresh-food collective in South Park. Coté is proud of the space she has “midwifed,” a place that has shaped its own identity with the help of the people around it.

Sip and Sonder describes itself as “an existence of the Black lifestyle” housed in a coffee shop.” Photo by Sip and Sonder.

Sip & Sonder – Inglewood, Calif.

Cofounders Shanita Nicholas and Amanda-Jane Thomas met while practicing law together in New York City before merging their aspirations to open Sip & Sonder in Inglewood, a predominantly Black neighborhood in the greater Los Angeles area. Shanita had a desire to provide a space for the start-up community, and Amanda-Jane wanted to open a café that welcomed the Black community, resulting in a space that the team calls “the the black lifestyle housed in a coffee shop.”

However, the coffeehouse doesn’t just serve drinks; it also functions as a multi-use studio that supports entrepreneurs like these women themselves. Sip & Sonder has a regular rotating set of events that support the Black community, such as Black movie nights, “Public Reading Room” discussion nights, and plenty of music. Their coffee also comes from the black-owned roasting company Red Bay Coffee, and much of the merchandise is provided by local entrepreneurs.

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.