The Memphis grind
Black coffeeshop owners in Bluff City reclaim beverage’s African heritage
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“How are you feeling today?” Keedran Franklin asks, sliding a steaming cup of coffee over the counter of his mobile truck.
His customer pauses before replying that today, she’s doing OK.
Most of us engage in this small talk every day. But how often do we reply honestly? And who really listens to our answers? For Franklin, the exchange is more significant than the homemade salmon croquettes and alligator-and-waffles he offers at his coffee business, which goes by the apt name of “The Check-In.”
“I ask everyone who comes to my truck to check in with a feeling. It’s like community therapy,” he says, speaking loudly enough to be heard above the roar of six lanes of traffic from bordering Winchester Road, beneath the shadow of planes coming and going from nearby Memphis International Airport.
Franklin’s truck is part of a grassroots movement brewing in Memphis, Tennessee, where coffee professionals are reclaiming java’s Black heritage and addressing the striking lack of people of color in leadership within the U.S. industry, which in 2022 generated a staggering $85 billion in revenue.
But in Memphis, that situation is changing.
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