Bell Bank becomes the official bank of The Get Down Coffee Co.

Grand opening of The Get Down Coffee Co. on Black Friday.

This article was written by Ry Edwards

On the last Black Friday, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to see long lines of people waiting in the cold for a business to open. But what if I told you that in 2021, one of those locations was a barbershop in North Minneapolis? That might pique some curiosity–since getting a haircut isn’t traditionally a popular Black Friday activity. 

If I told you that it was Houston White’s Barbershop, you might recognize the name of the entrepreneur who has launched successful clothing lines from that location including “Black Excellence” and “Viictory” which are being carried in retail outlets like Target and JC Penney. Buying clothes? That might make some more sense for Black Friday.

However, this rather large crowd was not lining up for a haircut or a new polo, hat or T-shirt. The line outside represented the community that lives in and around what Houston White calls Camdentown. These folks were arguably shivering with more excitement than cold. They had come to experience the birth of a new business; a business literally made of and for community connection. A coffee company.

Now three months later, the success of The Get Down Coffee Co. has turned the heads of not only the local and surrounding community, but also a large investor: Bell Bank. And while community may be the engine that drives both Houston and his business, having one of the largest independently owned banks in America as a financial partner can definitely add fuel to that engine.

On January 26, Bell Bank announced that they will be the official bank, mortgage company and financial services firm for The Get Down Coffee Co. to help White’s company at a critical stage of scaling the business.

“The Get Down Coffee Co. has already become a destination and a hub in Camdentown, just as Houston envisioned,” explains Katie Mattis Sarver, Bell Bank’s Community Development Officer, “As a bank that is committed to helping people who are underrepresented in their ability to access financial services, Bell Bank will work together with Houston White and The Get Down Coffee Co. to support the growth of jobs and the economy in Camdentown and beyond.”

The Get Down Coffee Co. currently roasts their coffee in Northeast Minneapolis in partnership with Dan Anderson’s Dogwood Coffee. However, within the next five years, Houston aims to get even more local by building his own coffee roaster on the same corner of Camdentown, at Humboldt and 44th Ave. N.

“We want to build wealth in the community,” says White, “and we do that by building businesses that create jobs locally and leave a lasting legacy.”

While building his brands within the original barbershop, Houston introduced a three foot snack counter where he served artisan, locally brewed Dogwood Coffee. Just as the barbershop is traditionally a cultural community center for Black Americans, Houston recognized a parallel. “Coffee is connection. It brings people together. Strangely, while coffee is largely grown and harvested by brown people all over the world, artisan coffee in America is neither welcoming nor diverse.”

The Get Down Coffee Co. is changing that by being a coffee shop that celebrates urban culture with its decor, music and most importantly “vibe.”

To help future customers understand what to expect at The Get Down, White uses the example of a restaurant brand. “You don’t have to be Chinese to appreciate and enjoy a Chinese restaurant. It’s a place that welcomes you to experience and celebrate Chinese culture through its decor, music and menu items.” 

“Diversity isn’t about making everything the same,” White continues, “Our differences make us dope. I’m interested in a ‘cultural collision.’ I built this place because I want people from all different backgrounds to come here and have conversations to grow as people and as a community.”

White hopes the partnership with Bell Bank will serve as a model for cities across the U.S. when it comes to allocating resources to culturally relevant businesses and entrepreneurs. “Black culture is American culture,” said White. “I’m honored to partner with Bell Bank because they understand that when you bring together culture plus capacity, the sky is the limit.”

Bell and White promise to continue looking for ways to support the Camdentown community as they partner over the next several years. Current plans to look forward to include: a special business accelerator event during the 2022 3M Open pro golf tour; and continued expansion of Bell’s business lending and mortgage programs designed to help historically underserved entrepreneurs and homebuyers.