I like my coffee black. Black, no sugar, no cream. I like for the coffee to wash over my tongue so I can pay special attention to its mouthfeel and viscosity. The edges of acidity lick at my palate while the sweet, bitter and bright notes play out in the cup. And I don’t even like coffee.
I do, however, appreciate its complexity and diversity, and I recognize quality beans.
I dipped a compostable stirrer into the world of coffee in my early twenties as an employee at Starbucks. Before I started there, I knew nothing about coffee except how to spell it. Over a five-year period, I climbed the ladder from barista to shift supervisor and assistant store manager very quickly. Earning a living wage gave me financial freedom, health insurance, stock options, a 401(k) and savings for retirement in order to support myself. I’m not the only person to make coffee a stepping-stone to my financial future.
Starting as a pop-up shop, Cam’s Coffee in Winston-Salem sold whole-bean coffee, coffee beverages and created employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. Owner Cam Myers is the 12-year-old entrepreneur behind the company and is the face of the brand.
As protests for racial justice sprang up across the country in late May following the death of George Floyd, the push to support Black-owned businesses was fueled by massive civil rights movements, accelerated through technology and embodied by the protests. The swell of support took the form of widely shared lists, databases and resource guides for customers to show support for the Black business community. And with the crescendo of support has come a surge of popularity in Black-owned business directories and new ways to support small Black-owned businesses.
“People were intentionally shopping Black and locally, specifically shopping Black coffee,” says Latasha Lewis, co-owner and Cam’s mother.
“We saw a huge increase in the numbers we were doing online,” Lewis adds. “We started thinking about what we look like, how we show up and how to continue to serve our community.”
Cam’s Coffee’s focus is no longer going to be the coffeeshop model. The new business model is going to be e-commerce driven. Leading the charge is an expanded line of coffee, coffee products and online sales of ground coffee, whole bean, K-cups, instant coffee, loose tea and coffee-based skin care products.
“In a casual conversation, we were trying to figure out what this new thing looks like and he said ‘What if we could create 100 jobs?,’” Lewis says. “We really took that to heart. Could we have 100 employees?” says Lewis.
The company has a new initiative called One Kid, One Mission, 100 jobs.
“It’s a big goal, but it’s something I think that can be done because we’ve changed how we look at employment,” Lewis says. “Instead of focusing on how we can have local impact, it’s like, how can we have national impact?”
In August, ByGood Coffee opened in the former Twin City Hive space on Brookstown Avenue. While the company is new to Winston-Salem, it was founded in 2016 by Abbey and Darrell Garner in Long Island, NY. For nearly 10 years, the couple attempted to open in North Carolina. They offer retail coffee and teas, a loose-leaf tea program and coffee beverages crafted with house-made syrups.
“I did my undergraduate at North Carolina Central University in Durham, my dad is from Northampton County and my mom is from Danville, Virginia,” Darrell Garner says noting his family’s Southern roots.
In NY, the couple was afraid to broadcast the fact that they are a Black, family-owned business. Some Black entrepreneurs feel compelled to conceal the fact that their businesses are Black-owned for fear they will lose patronage — either to misperceptions that the product or services are only for Black folks, or to racial biases on the part of potential customers. But when they arrived in Winston-Salem, the family fell in love.
After conducting extensive market research about the Triad, the area’s specialty coffee market and quality of life in North Carolina, they were sold. Darrell noted Winston-Salem’s ranking on lists such as “Best Places to Live” and “Best Places To Retire” in Forbes and U.S. News & World Report magazines. Not only is ByGood a coffee shop, they have an in-house coffee roaster and offer pastries and cakes from 3 Layers Cakery in Downtown Winston-Salem.
“Now is our time, even though it’s in the middle of a pandemic,” says ByGood Coffee co-owner Abbey Garner. “Nobody is trying to take risks right now. We decided to take on this challenge and see.”
If someone wants a good cup of coffee, Garner says that she will still find a way to get into customers homes whether it’s online, through delivery or something more creative.
“It’s tiring on my part, but I love what I do,” she says. “I get up every morning and I look forward to coming in here and doing what I do.”
Black is beautiful. Whether it’s coffee, one’s soul or one’s joy, the Black coffee business is here to stay.
Learn more about Cam’s Coffee at shop.camscoffeeco.com. ByGood Coffee is located at 301 Brookstown Ave Ste 300. Learn more at bygoodcoffee.com.