By Ariele Vaccaro
Mornings on the north side of Milwaukee belong to Coffee Makes You Black on North Teutonia Avenue.
At this local coffee shop and restaurant, customers have been getting their daily dose of caffeine, as well as breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes a little entertainment for 14 years.
Bradley Thurman opened the North Side spot as solely a coffee shop.
Today, Coffee Makes You Black is a full-service restaurant, where one can watch young servers and baristas bustling about, weaving around tables at top speed and brewing City Net coffee while customers enjoy the singular art and photography that lines the high walls.
According to Thurman, the coffee shop has become a meeting place for many community members. Twenty-year-old server, Tima Shipman, said she’s seen familiar faces such as that of U.S. Representative Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Senator Lena Taylor and Sheriff David Clarke come in and out of the cafe.
With one look at the bulletin board in shop’s foyer, it’s clear that Coffee Makes You Black is a gathering place for the community.
Thurman noted that a litany of events take place between the store’s walls from “political forums to funerals, jazz events, [and] poetry.”
During the first Friday of each month, interested community members can listen to a live jazz musician.
“That seems to be one of our biggest events. We’re sort of wall-to-wall on those Fridays.
People really enjoy themselves,” said Thurman.
However, it doesn’t take live entertainment to make regulars out of some customers.
Retired school teacher, Anthony Courtney, visits the shop six days out of the week, “everyday but Sunday”.
“This is a place where a lot of people come through, so I’m able to share ideas with them, in my retirement,” Courtney said.
Courtney also wants to touch others who attend the coffee shop, specifically African-American, male youth in the community.
“I have a goal of talking to at least 3000 young men in the course of a year,” said Courtney, noting that, as of now, he is ahead of his target.
He is not the only one using the coffee shop to promote the betterment of the community. Thurman said that he makes an effort to hire staff from every walk of life.
“They come from poverty, they come from single parent homes, they come from having babies at a young age.
The whole dilemma that affects life in the inner city.”
For Thurman, offering employment opportunity to the local workforce is important.
“We try to employ people from our community,” said the business owner.
Tima Shipman finds that her employers are motivating, and encourage their staff members.
“It’s an awesome job. It’s fun,” said Shipman. “I think we’re more of a family than anything, so it’s easy to work. We can go to them about anything.”
Overall, Thurman’s goal for the coffee shop is rather simplistic.
He aims to provide “a place where the community can feel comfortable and get some good food.”