Time to Get Down Coffee

This article was written by Ry Edwards

The corner of 44th and Humboldt has a new marquee. Again. Since Houston White purchased the previous coffee bar building in 2008, he turned it into a barber shop designed as an embodiment of Black urban culture. He called it “H. White’s Men’s Room.” People came to get haircuts, but they also came for the community.

“During the downturn of 2008, people would come and sit to listen to Black music like Hip-Hop, Jazz and Funk,” White says, “and just engage in conversation.”

Over the next decade he built community and began expanding his vision by adding a clothing line with a prominent logo proudly titled “Black Excellence” that he sold out of his shop. Soon, he was hosting block parties for fashion shows and inviting youth to attend young entrepreneur events inside the shop. Houston’s brand was growing as was the support from North Minneapolis.  

“Community is critical,” says White, who frequently partners with local business owners and community leaders to brainstorm and design products and events. “We look for solutions that help people connect. In Black culture, the barber shop is a symbol of community. But coffee is a symbol of connection and community that transcends race.”

In 2018, he put up a new banner above the shop re-branded to “HWMR.” Inside new mannequins featured his new sports line called “VICTORY” designed to add an urban flair to sports like golf and tennis. Then he added something even more special; a snack station that served specialty artisan blends of Dogwood coffee.

“Coffee is community,” says White, “but the artisan coffee hasn’t been marketed to people of color–even coffee is picked by people of color all over the world. We want to change that.

The events continued including an enormous festival featuring local BBQ vendors and musicians. The “Camdenton BBQ & Blues Festival” of 2019 was designed to be the first of an annual event. However, the unforeseen COVID pandemic put the event on hiatus. Then a major event happened that would change the future indefinitely; the murder of George Floyd while he was in police custody.

While the world grieved and cried out for justice, Houston’s artisan coffee supplier, Dan Anderson, came to Houston looking for a balm to address the community outcry and unrest. They went out to Theodore Wirth Park to play a round of golf so they could discuss potential solutions.

Houston is no stranger to grief, having buried his wife, Donise, who died at age 37, mere weeks after learning she had cancer. After her passing, Houston didn’t ask for flowers, but instead created something to further the vision they shared of creating generational wealth on the Northside. He set up the Donise White Scholarship Fund for youth pursuing entrepreneurship and a 2-4 year college education.

When Dan expressed his heart-felt desire to do something for the Black community, he suggested making a donation to an organization or even opening a new location of his artisan coffee somewhere in North Minneapolis. But White said it wasn’t enough.

“We need construction on top of destruction,” Houston told Dan just as he tells everyone who asks. “And I want to normalize Culture Collision because our differences make us dope.” Like with the scholarship fund, Houston wanted to focus on creating lasting change that will impact generations within the Black community.

After the golf game, Dan went home and told his wife, Angie, about his conversation with Houston. Angie suggested that Dan partner with Houston to create a new coffee business. Dan jumped at the idea and proposed the partnership to Houston who excitedly agreed.

The latest remodel of the corner of 44th and Humboldt is now complete with a brand new lighted marquee over the barber shop that reads the brand that means Black Urban Culture: HOUSTON WHITE. But now there’s another sign above it inviting the whole community into a cultural collision. A sign representing Dan and Houston’s combined vision to use Dogwood Coffee to create jobs, wealth and community for a diverse population. They call it “The Get Down Coffee Co.”

The grand opening is on Black “Coffee” Friday, November 26. Check it out. The Get Down Coffee Co., 1500 N 44th Ave, getdown@getdowncoffee.com.