For La’Shante (Shaunie) Grigsby, YWCA St. Paul’s Youth Programs Manager, coffee shops have provided the space for creativity, as well as comfort and camaraderie. They have afforded her the opportunity to build both personal and professional connections as she cultivated her passions.
For the past 4.5 years, Shaunie has spent her days working at YWCA St. Paul to empower young people to build bright future and achieve their dreams. In her role, she leads programming that helps young people affirm who they are, and supports them in building leadership skills, employment readiness and academic success. Shaunie has also worked closely with the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and the State of Minnesota aimed at improving equity and opportunities for and with young women. YWCA St. Paul is proud to host the Cabinet, providing leadership training and advocacy development to its members.
When thinking about her own dreams, she focused on how she would be able to blend her love of coffee shops with providing young women and gender-expansive youth with opportunities to better themselves.
And that is how Flava Café, the first Black-owned coffee shop in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood was born. Scheduled to open in October, Flava Café will be located at Frogtown Crossroads, a development on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Dale Street.
The name Flava Café came out of Grigsby’s love of ’90s pop culture, particularly the show “Living Single,” which focuses on a woman who runs a culture magazine called “Flavor.”
More than a coffee shop, Flava Café will offer a career-readiness and personal development program for young women, transgender and nonbinary youth of color ages 16 to 24. The program will consist of a nine month internship where the young people will work in the café in a variety of roles – from barista to kitchen staff to social media and marketing. They will also receive professional development training and coaching to increase their self-efficacy and employment skills, all through a cultural lens.
“The coffee shop aligns well with my dreams and aspirations, as well as the needs of the community. I’m adding my own flavor to youth development and empowerment, also to the cafe culture space. I want Flava Café to be thought of as ‘the spot’ for people, especially Black people, to come together in a safe space and build connections, while obtaining the resources to prepare for careers and life goals,” said Shaunie.
Throughout the creation of Flava Café, Shaunie received tremendous support from YWCA St. Paul. “I am so grateful for YWCA St. Paul and the care and support of both the wonderful staff and the amazing young women we serve.”