[image-1]For local restaurateurs looking to open a cafe, Reynolds Avenue in North Charleston might not be their first thought. The street is lined with closed storefronts. A laundromat and a church covered in bright yellow and white crosses on each window are the few bright spots on the street. But Metanoia, a Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood community development organization, saw an opportunity at 2021 Reynolds Ave. to offer neighbors something a little different, The Macon Cafe.
“It’s in a building we were given a few years ago,” says Metanoia CEO Bill Stanfield. And in keeping with Metanoia’s three part mission — to develop year-round youth leadership programs, house and fix homes for those in need in the community, and improve the local economy — adding a business to Reynolds Avenue made sense. “Our business vision is to generate something along that corrdior for new business,” says Stanfield.
Of course, jumping into food and bev was no easy task for the nonprofit. “I don’t know how to operate a coffee shop,” Stanfield concedes. That’s why Metanoia found a community partner. Duvall Catering is running the shop and has hired three women from the community to work at The Macon. “Duvall’s been great,” says Stanfield.
But Duvall isn’t in it for a profit. At least not yet. “The way their lease is written, they are required to put all the income from the facility back into the operation of the facility. If they make a net income above a certain percentage, if the facility is wildly successful, then Duvall would pay rent to us,” says Stanfield. For now, though, Duvall pays just $1 month and all of the utilities. “They have the economy of scale and capacity behind the cafe to sustain it. It’s OK to them if there’s an off day here or there, but they need to break even.”
But there’s no reason they shouldn’t succeed. Especially when you look at the menu. Rarely have we seen such affordable fare created by one of the Lowcountry’s leading caterers. You can buy a breakfast croissant for $3.99. A grilled cheese with tomato soup costs the same. And wraps are $4.99 with chips. And all that was delivered in a sunny space filled with happy diners when we went by at 1:30 p.m. on a Tuesday.
“I think that people are proud to see something going on there,” says Stanfield. “For moms and parents who have kids in our programs, it’s been a real help to them to walk to work or be able to grab food.” But can it continue to lure people in beyond its opening weeks? Stanfield thinks so because like all of Metanoia’s projects, The Macon doesn’t take the typical community development approach. [image-3]
“What communities really need is not somebody to focus on what they’re bad at but what they’re good at,” he says. “Some people know us because we build homes and some know us because we do youth development, but what knits it together is a commitment to see neighborhood for its strengths. Where people see a vacant building, we see an asset.”
The Macon (2021 Reynolds Avenue) is open Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit maconcoffee.org.