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North Minneapolis Entrepreneur Envisioning A Black Cultural Hub In 'CamdenTown'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Houston White walks in front of his north Minneapolis barbershop with the joy and confidence of a man who has big ideas.

"How do I help create this vibrant, Black future in the state that I love?" It's a question White has been pondering for years, and he's taking action right now.

He said he opened his barbershop, Houston White Men's Room, in the middle of last economic train-wreck, in 2009.

"When things are challenging there are tons of opportunities, the goal of an entrepreneur is to find them," he said in an interview sitting in one of his barbershop chairs.

While some would retreat in the middle of a pandemic, he's thinking even bigger.

"I want to see a thriving business hub, almost a SoHo, where it attracts the best and brightest talent," he said.

White is raising money to expand his operation from a corner barbershop to a clothing store, coffee house, roasting facility, and more. He's calling the coffee side of his operation: The Get Down Coffee Co.

"How do we infuse and bring a different group of people into the specialty coffee world? Beyond just a coffee shop, it's a coffee company that will have a roastery within two years. That's our goal," White said.

He's partnering with his friend and Dogwood Coffee founder, Dan Anderson. At first, The Get Down will use Dogwood's roaster, and learn from their expertise. Reaching new customers, and training new talent.

"At the end of the day, a lot of people are in coffee because of a love of community and people," Anderson said. "It would be terrific to see this grow. We're not worried about competition, it's bigger than that."

The goal is to bring a roastery to this North Minneapolis neighborhood - and the middle class jobs that come with it.

"For years, I bumped my head to figure out where did I fit," said White, explaining the choice many Black Minnesotans face as they become middle class. "Do I live in a neighborhood where we're lacking in safety, lacking in good schools, lacking in jobs, just lacking?" Or do you move into "a middle class neighborhood that is overwhelmingly white, where you end up feeling void of culture?"

White is hoping to build the future at the corner of North 44th Avenue and Humboldt. There's already a new grocery store there. He calls it "CamdenTown."

"We need to bring industry to North Minneapolis, we want to make things, we want to provide jobs that are sustainable. Hopefully buy a house in the community, and then we bring generational wealth through means of entrepreneurship and ownership," he said.

If you'd like to contribute and help build HMWR 2.0, you can donate at his IndeGoGo site.

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