COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Community leaders on Monday unveiled a new coffee shop whose mission extends beyond equipping caffeine lovers with their daily fix.

South End Café, the third social enterprise run by the faith-based nonprofit Community Development for All People, held its grand opening at 1951 Parsons Ave. to provide good-paying jobs to Columbus residents struggling to find work, including those returning to the workforce or with no prior experience.

South End Café, located at 1951 Parsons Ave. (NBC4 Photo/Matthew Herchik)

“Whether they’ve been incarcerated or caring for a loved one, (we are) helping them to get back in the workforce and build a stable foundation of work that they can then leverage to a full-time career,” said Mike Premo, executive director of Community Development for All People.

That includes Duylan Strother, one of the city’s newest baristas who got a job at South End Café after being unemployed over a long stretch of the coronavirus pandemic with few job prospects.

Before he learned about South End Café, Strother said his coffee-making skills largely amounted to mixing instant coffee packets in hot water. Today, Strother said he’s not only earning a paycheck, but his caffeinated beverages also have a bit more “pizzaz.”

“The whole journey of it has just been amazing itself,” he said. “Just learning how to make cappuccinos, cortados – you name it, I’ve probably learned it by now.”

Once an empty, boarded-up storefront on Parsons Avenue, Premo said he hopes the café – whose beans are roasted in-house – will help revitalize Columbus’ South Side neighborhood after decades of disinvestment. 

Part of a larger, 24-unit affordable housing complex developed by the Kelley Companies, the Community Development for All People said combining affordable residential space with retail will help spur economic activity in the area.

Premo said he envisions the coffee shop as a gathering space for all walks of life in Columbus, regardless of a customer’s annual income.

“We expect there will be people here that make six figures and people here that make no figures,” he said.

South End Café was awarded $250,000 in April 2022 – one of 77 Ohio-based projects that received $107 million in federal funding secured by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, according to Premo. Other donors include the Columbus City Council, the Columbus Foundation, Huntington Bank, the Moritz Family Foundation, and the Church of the Messiah Foundation.

South End Café will officially open to the public on Monday, March 6.