Young, Black woman opens coffee and juice cafe in downtown Jackson
Written By Italiana Anderson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
'When I saw how much Jackson had expanded since I graduated from Jackson State, I thought, 'Wow it's changed and it's inspiring me. I want to own a business here.''
Opening a restaurant during a pandemic can seem impossible.
After placing orders for a cold pressed juice machine and the perfect furniture for the sitting area, Kenya MomPremier had no idea it would take two months for delivery due to coronavirus.
Even though this hurdle deemed difficult to jump, MomPremier handled the opening of her first cafe with grace and grit.
'Living in the South, I found my love for nature' The Washington D.C. native and her family moved to Terry, Mississippi, where her father is originally from at age 10. Moving from the hustle and bustle to an easy, slow Southern town brought out her creative side and encouraged her to find her niche. “In the metro area it's very fast and when I moved to the South it was like you know your neighbors, you’re always outdoors with fresh air, a completely different vibe," MomPremier said. While living in the South, she found her love for nature. Not only did her inspiration come from her environment but also her eighth grade social studies teacher, Mr. Nelson, who also owned a vintage store in Terry.
"He left a really good impression on me and gave me a sense of what it meant to be a leader," MomPremier said. After graduating from Terry High School in 2005, MomPremier went to a few colleges before she found a home at Jackson State University. In 2010, she graduated with a major in business and moved back to Washington D.C. While beginning life as a college graduate in her hometown, she met her husband, Mikelson and returned to the South but went further west to McAllen, Texas, and had two children.
In November 2019, being a stay-at-home mom and home schooling her children, called for a much needed break for MomPremier. She and her husband often traveled back and forth but this particular trip while visiting her parents she came to Jackson. Driving through downtown Jackson sparked an idea. “When I saw how much Jackson had expanded since I graduated from Jackson State, I thought, 'Wow it's changed and it's inspiring me,'" she said. "I want to own a business here." She gave the idea some thought and came up with the concept of a cafe called Green Bean. "I knew it had to be something that resonated with me and spoke to me," she said. "I thought what things do I do that I could bring to Jackson or how can I be a part of a movement that’s already happening in Jackson." She said she wanted to lean more toward juicing, since it was something she did with her children along with gardening. When she found the location in One Jackson Place in downtown Jackson, she decided to add coffee and pastries to the menu. She thought coffee would be a necessity for corporate workers. "Healthiness is peaceful to me, so I wanted to use a method of making the coffee that resonates with me also," she said. MomPremier wanted each cup of coffee to be brewed by hand at Green Bean. All of the coffee made at the cafe comes from Bossblendcoffee Co., which is also owned by a young, black woman entrepreneur in New York City along with Earth Blend Coffee in Jackson. The coffee beans are green before they are roasted hence the name of her cafe. The juices are also made from scratch. 'Then 'BOOM' COVID-19 came and changed everything' In January, MomPremier hit the ground running and started to build Green Bean. Now living in Dallas, she had to commute every weekend in order to stay on top of construction with her contractor. "COVID hit and changed that aspect of my business and instead of flying I had to end up driving to Jackson, staying longer, even spent more money on Airbnb's," MomPremier said. At that point, it seemed as if none of the items she ordered for the cafe would ever come due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like, the cold pressed juice machine and glass bottles for her fresh made juices. This bump in the road caused her find a new vendor and cut her budget as well. The COVID-19 pandemic affected her husband's business as well. In order to keep his employees, the couple cut into their salaries to keep workers on payroll. By doing this, it cut into the budget for Green Bean. "At this point, I had to get creative because my contractor can't do everything I wanted him to do with the new budget," she said. "...For example my counter tops were originally $4,000 and I got it down to $600." MomPremier was unable to get the furniture pieces she wanted so she shopped around at Target and Facebook Marketplace where she found the perfect pieces. "It all worked out for us, my contractors, the leasing agency, fruit and vegetable vendors, they all worked with me because they knew how difficult it was for a new business to go through this during the pandemic," MomPremier said.
More:Jackson metro restaurant owners making efforts to rebuild amid coronavirus 'I wanted a place that when you walked in it felt peaceful' Green Bean is located inside of One Jackson Place, a building with law firms and corporate offices. The cafe opened for business on July 20 and MomPremier has regulars already, having conversation in front of Green Bean with their green cups in hand. MomPremier wanted her cafe to create a sense of calmness for those customers that are always on-the-go. "I wanted a place that when you walked in it felt peaceful, so I needed to bring in plants," she said. "I needed to bring in earth tone colors, the browns and dark greens colors to make you feel closer to earth. "To me healthiness is peaceful. When you have control over your body you feel better and look better. I want my customers to come to place where they can love on themselves and be in tune with themselves also." Not only did she want the cafe to feel peaceful for customers but also her employees, especially during the process of brewing the coffee. 'We need to keep this movement going' Green Bean is the first Black-owned coffee shop in downtown Jackson. Being a Black woman and owning a cafe has even inspired her employees. Cambriah Saey, general manager at Green Bean, says she grateful to MomPremier for trusting her to run the cafe while she is away. "She gave me the responsibility to take over already and it's a big step," she said. "She's giving me an opportunity to become like her. I really look up to her." Saey said she is passionate about her position because she couldn't have imagined being put in this leadership role. "I think business is going to boom because it's so cozy and homey plus the coffee and juices I didn't think they could taste so good made from scratch," Saey said. MomPremier hopes her business gives others the momentum to create. "I’m hoping I won’t be the only Black-owned cafe here because we need to keep this going," MomPremier said. The café owner says she has created a blog on YouTube to document the process of opening Green Bean so that other entrepreneurs see how it's done. "I’m hoping with me being the first to do this, the result is more people reaching out, wanting to learn how to do this on their own," she said. "There’s enough opportunity out here for us all." Contact Italiana Anderson at (601)-720-3907 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ItalianaAnders2 on Twitter.