Learn about a local coffee shop that’s brewing up camaraderie, revitalization and social justice… oh, and a really good cup of coffee. Read on for all the delicious details.
Blending community, social justice, and good coffee is a family affair for Esther West. Her father, Ray, founded Community Blend, and now she helps out with various aspects of running the business and continuing the legacy.
Community Blend is an eco-friendly coffee shop located on Montgomery Road, in an old refurbished pharmacy building, and owned and operated by members of the Evanston neighborhood to help revitalize the area. The shop celebrates diversity, gives workers a stake in their neighborhood and the pride of ownership and customers a friendly atmosphere, and provides free wifi.
Community Blend sells fair trade Equal Exchange coffee, tea, and chocolate from small farmer co-operatives, baked goods from small businesses in the Evanston area, and sandwiches and other lunch items. Community Blend is more than just your average coffee shop, though, because “not only is it a beautiful, sociable cafe and coffee shop welcome to everyone,” West says, but “you can know you’re actively part of a more fair, just economy and world when you visit.” In fact, Community Blend not only pays its employees above minimum wage, but also provides education and training to its workers, and each one has an equal share in ownership.
Ray founded Community Blend in “an exciting, collaborative way focused on creating worker co-ops and a more socially just world,” explains West, who is a community urban planner. Ray was the director and the founder of the worker cooperative incubator Interfaith Business Builders and brought many organizations together to support the creation of Community Blend, which has set out to “be a community resource and create good jobs for people often left out of the economy.”
West is very proud of all of her father’s work. Not only was he an “incredible dad,” but even before founding Community Blend, West says, Ray “dedicated his life to creating meaningful structures that promote a world that respects the dignity of all people, and empowers the disadvantaged and oppressed.”
He founded Interfaith Business Builders to help co-op workers achieve this dream, and through IBB he also founded Cooperative Janitorial Services 22 years ago. When Ray passed away a year and a half ago, West says, the employee-owners “truly stepped up to the plate in terms of keeping it going and ensuring genuine worker ownership and direction, even during the challenging first years of a small business…[They] carved out a lovely place that anyone can come to and feel at home with friendly people.”
To learn more, “like” them on Facebook or call (513) 531-2667.