Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics

I have an idea that I want to share with my faithful readers. I'm willing to take the risk that someone may steal my idea. At the end of the day, I know I have too much on my plate to lead the charge, so I'm hoping one of you will be inspired to stand up and say "I have your back, Miss V... I will make it happen." So... after a few paragraphs of jibber jabber, I'll share my idea.... First let's focus on me.

Ward 7 is getting THE first sit-down, white table cloth establishment East of the River in early 2010 (Whoot Whoot). However, we do not have a cafe where I can meet friends to chit chat or use wifi. There is the Bagel Place on Minnesota Ave NE, but it's not living up to it's potential. Allegedly, Big Chair Cafe in Ward 8 will open.... one day.

I am an AVID coffee drinker. Every single day that I leave my house at some point I drive on Penn Ave SE. There is NOWHERE to get coffee between Fairfax Village and Eastern Market on Penn Ave. There is a Starbucks at the Safeway on Alabama **yawn** and there is coffee at McDonald's **side-eye**. If I want to tap away on my laptop while sipping the coffee God put on this earth just for me, I have to leave the Ward.

So here's my idea (not that it is all that original), but what if WE, the community, pooled our money to start our OWN community cafe. There is enough people with relatively high incomes living in Ward 7 . Certainly the Hillcrest (including Fairfax Village), Penn Branch and Fort Davis neighborhoods have some of the highest incomes on this side of town. IF, we could get 100 households to give at least $500 that would be more than enough for starting capital.

Stay with me here.... Then, we hire people from the community to work in the cafe. Maybe even do a job training program with the local high school to give some of these chirren (that's children as my granddaddy would say it) something to do after school. Plus if they work XX amount of hours and maintain a certain GPA, they can be eligible for a college scholarship (funded by the cafe).

The best part is that ALL the profits from the cafe would be required to stay in the community for programs, initiatives and other projects the shareholders (aka the community) wants to fund.

Well... that was my idea. Let it marinate and rotisserate in your mind.... Should you be so inspired to lead the charge, holla at your girl. I'm down to help.


  1. I know someone that wanted to start a coffee shop in River East, but was saying he just didn't have the cash for the space. Real estate isn't as cheap over here as people think it is...I'm in over my head with other projects, but I'll ask him to see if he's still interested and maybe he could head it up...another fellow architect too...could be interesting.

  2. Yeah... I talked to the real estate broker at Penn Branch at one point. He said that he's leasing at $30/SF/Year. I told him that seemed REALLY high. But I think something can be done. Tell him to hit me up

  3. Fascinating idea (and I don't even drink coffee).. I will follow this... I can think of two or three households who might be willing to buy-in

  4. a possibility is a publicly owned, non-profit corporation.. issue shares (and put some limits as to how many shares on could own so that no one gains control) -- stockholders probably could not receive dividends on the initial investment... but could serve on a board of commitee.

    As you can see, I am more than a bit fascinated by this concept... anyone else want to explore the possibilities?

  5. I'm definitely down to explore. Like I said it's something I've been mulling over for a few months. A great model is REI the outdoors store. It is a cooperative. At the end of the year it pays money to the members, which are usually customers.

  6. downloaded info re REI's structure.. will review as well as info re businesses organized as cooperatives...

  7. Great... when you get a chance email me (

  8. I fully support your idea. I am not a coffee drinker but a writer with NO PLACE TO GO. Having moved from Columbia Heights where we had all sorts of places to WIFI, hang out and write, I miss the convenience of having a neighborhood place to hang out after work. Here's hoping there are enough others that would be willing to support the idea....