I love me some good coffee and the feel of the bindings of a new book in my hands. So when I was invited one afternoon to The Village Cafe with a friend for a coffee and to look around their book store I jumped at the chance. I was amazed by the instant atmosphere change from the outside bitter cold as we walked in the door; it was alive and buzzing with a life of its own. College students studying from Gallaudet playing basketball with the trash can. New lovers and partnership. The book store was packed with customers! Graffiti artwork blessed the walls. Then, on one wall something beautiful caught my eye, posters hung from what seemed to be past customers, thanking the owners for helping them become entrepreneurs and then a bunch of signatures below. I was intrigued. This place was so welcoming.
A slew of questions came into my head. What all did this place do for the community? Who were the owners? How long had this wonderful place been open? Can I partner with them with my own businesses? Suddenly, my boldness spilled out and I requested to speak with the owners.
Kevon King, Ryan Williams, and Muhammad Mangum, are all partners together in the The Village Cafe. Kevon and Ryan have been friends since they met in second grade at age seven. Together, they both met Muhammad at Woodrow Wilson High School where they all became friends at the age of fourteen. Ryan had always dreamt of opening up his own restaurant. Where Kevon had always dreamt of opening his own community center.
Grinding out in 2017, the three friends kicked off their dreams by drafting out their first business plan with the support of Richard Brandenburg, the talented mastermind chef behind Union Market, and their mentor. They also have a cousin they admire who is a successful entrepreneur, Terry Williams, who is the CEO of Shea Butter Like Whoa.
The Village Cafe isn’t just a place to grab a great cup of coffee or a new book. The three have created a place where people can gather together and flourish as a community. They all grew up where under-privileged communities were the norm and wanted to make a difference and impact where there was a lack. That is exactly what they are doing. Kevon is the Business Director and Muhammad is the Event Director working to bring experts in to fill the gap to showcase artists and have performances in the 1,000-sqft space they have available to them behind the cafe. They also have Film screenings, panels and much more.
Their goal is to be an incubator for others, to build the community, build a legacy, and lend a helping hand. For others to feel the same energy I was able to experience when I walked in the door and create value for others each and every time. Like a village, everyone has your back. The Village Cafe, wants to create food access, basic recreation, innovation and emerging talent.
The logo of a tree and its roots represents everything The Village stands for and has truly embodied. Kevon says they chose the logo, because a tree stands the tests of time. Trees are all connected together, like a community needs to be. The roots are your past, but it doesn’t have to be who you are. The leaves are all the little details of your life. Trees are always competing for nutrients, but we all have the same source of life, the sun and rain.
When I stopped and saw through that lens, it was simple. We all need one another to grow and move forward. We are stronger together. So rather than pulling each other down and competing for who is better, let’s push each other up. Kevon, Muhammad, and Ryan, thanks for reminding all of us how wonderful and natural it is to collaborate. May we never forget, IT TAKES A VILLAGE, MOE!
Written by Denaé Ivy.
Pictures taken by Justin Moultrie and edited by Denaé Ivy.