Cafe X Marks the Spot

Three community activists, including local hip-hop artist Parker Edison, plot an Encanto coffee shop co-op

Uniting the world, one cup of coffee at a time: If Khea Pollard, Parker Edison and Ferchil Ramos can bring their collective vision to fruition, Southeast San Diego will soon be on the receiving end of quite the jolt, courtesy of Café X: By Any Beans Necessary.

Currently approaching its final planning stages, the three community activists will get their coffee shop off the ground(s) initially as an outdoor cart located at the Community Spot (6443 Imperial Ave.) in Encanto before eventually expanding. Its mission? 

"We are a space for healing, creating art and organizing," Pollard told SoundDiego via email. "The focus is cooperative economics, reinvestment into community, and unique partnerships."

In a recent SD Voyager profile, Pollard -- Community Representative and Policy Advisor to San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox -- expanded on why the coffee shop is unique.

"Café X: By Any Beans Necessary is a worker-owned co-op. That sets us apart from the classic, capitalistic, profit-making enterprises, for profits sake. We want to enrich our member-owners, pass on communal wealth and knowledge, and provide welcoming space to organize and learn from one another. Café X is a model for how we want to do business as a connected community."

In other words, it ain't Starbucks. It's also been a long time coming: Pollard originally had the idea for it years ago during her participation in an urban leadership program called RISE San Diego (where she met Ramos, a New Media Strategist and founder of My Sound Future). But despite the frequency with which new coffee shops seem to pop up in town, it's been a lengthy process for Café X to blossom into a reality.

"I thought about the co-op concept a few years ago while completing my fellowship program and people were not ready," Pollard explained. "And to some extent, people are still apprehensive. The fact is, development is happening in this [Southeast San Diego] community. New folks are moving in and OGs will be priced out a la gentrification. We have people who are welcoming gentrification with open arms -- they want shopping malls and big-box retailers. Café X is saying: Why don't we grow our community from the ground up? Start with a cafe, expand. The options are there. We have to think long-term and beyond the norm."

To Pollard, Ramos and Edison (a San Diego Music Award-winning hip-hop artist who currently performs in the local trio the Parker Meridien), Southeast San Diego simply needs something like Café X: By Any Beans Necessary. As long-time area residents deeply involved in the community, it's time.

"I want to see Southeast thrive, and I hope that we become a cornerstone to show folks that others can get this money too," Ramos said.

You can help them toward that goal, too. Café X: By Any Beans Necessary is currently in the midst of crowdfunding via GoFundMe for various start-up expenses, including a canopy for the cart [Go here to contribute]. Aside from monetary contributions, Edison said people can help simply by telling others about it: "Spread love by spreading the word." 

While they have a ways yet to go, Ramos is confident they'll be up and running soon.

"We want to have our soft-launch on Labor Day weekend because last Labor Day, elected officials, labor groups and community members came together to help repaint the Community Spot," he said. "We want to show them what can happen in just a year's time when you invest in the community."

For more information, visit the Café X website and head to their GoFundMe page.

Dustin Lothspeich is a SDMA-winning musician, an associate editor at SoundDiego since 2013, talent buyer at The Merrow, and founder of the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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