When a new coffee shop in KCK’s Strawberry Hill neighborhood opens this fall, the space is expected to feature more than just specialty roasts — with financial literacy programming, community workouts and hip hop yoga sessions on the menu.
“It’s never been about, ‘How can I make the most money the fastest?’” said TJ Roberts, who plans to open Kinship Cafe in September. “I really see Kinship as this space where people can connect, showcase their businesses and build the programming that would thrive in this area. I want the community to recognize all the good things that are in KCK.”
Roberts — a 29-year-old business developer for FairWave Coffee Collective, where he specifically works as the operations manager for Black Drip Coffee — doesn’t expect to take a paycheck from Kinship, he said. Instead, he hopes to blend his relationships and experience with the coffee brands to create a transformative concept of his own.
To give the community a taste of what’s brewing at Kinship Cafe, the shop is planning a pop-up party Friday, Aug. 20, during KCK’s Third Fridays.
Click here to follow Kinship Coffee on Instagram.
“That’s going to be right here in our parking lot and outdoor patio,” Roberts said standing in front of the freshly painted cafe at 719 N. 6th St., Kansas City, Kansas. “We will have Black Drip, Disabled But Not Really, Jenna [Bodensteiner] who does hip hop yoga and a lot of really great vendors.”
Coffee lovers can anticipate Kinship offering the smoothest cold brew in KCK, he teased.
“What makes [Kinship] different from other coffee shops is that we will have cold brew made as it’s being ordered,” Roberts said. “This freshness causes the coffee to be poured out in a very smooth texture. We are definitely more focused on the simplicity of how coffee is made.”
Check out the Kinship Cafe’s construction progress at the former KC Cupcake Company below, then keep scrolling!
Roberts is partnering with Charon Thompson and Dan Smith from Black Drip Coffee, he said, noting that the connection between the founders instantly clicked.
“We will have a blend that is exclusively for Kinship Cafe,” Thompson confirmed.
“We’re just excited about what TJ is doing,” Smith added. “He is a passionate, determined guy, and it’s been really cool to see his progression throughout this journey.”
Click here to read more about Black Drip Coffee and its ties FairWave and Messenger Coffee.
Another key element of Kinship Cafe will be educating the community on the process behind coffee and roasting, Roberts noted.
“We want to give people the opportunity to learn about how Black Drip started, learn about the specialty coffee process through cupping sessions and then learn what different types of equipment they can purchase in order to make coffee from home,” he explained.
Strength through kinship
Roberts’ own passion for coffee began as a child. As an 11-year-old — with just an inkling of roasting knowledge — he got up early to make coffee for his entire church, where his father served as the pastor.
“As I grew older, that love for coffee grew — along with other things, like my interest in football, forensics, business and relationship building,” he said.
Kinship Cafe’s business plan relies heavily on the latter: especially the themes of community and connection — two ideas that felt unfamiliar to Roberts as he was growing up in the small, all-white town of Wamego, Kansas, he said.
“My day-to-day life was not feeling accepted, whether that was because of my skin color or because of my seven fingers,” Roberts shared. “It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school when I just decided I was going to stop trying to be like everyone else. I was like, ‘I’m just going to be me — the weirdest, coolest, biracial, adopted and seven-fingered kid in school.’”
With Roberts fully aware of such feelings of adversity throughout his life, Kinship Cafe will be intentionally welcoming to all individuals, he noted.
“People can expect it to be a fun, vibrant, inviting space that has the lightest shade of white to the darkest shade of dark,” Roberts said. “Anyone is welcome.”
An unexpected push
Although Roberts announced the cafe’s launch this summer, the business has been in the works for the past five years, he shared.
“It wasn’t the right time for me to open Kinship five years ago,” Roberts said, acknowledging he wanted to learn more about the coffee industry and craft before diving into the business.
Two and a half years ago, Roberts picked up a job working at The Roasterie — adding an extra 20 hours to the 70 hours he was working as an insurance agent for a nationwide provider. Although he was constantly on-the-go, Roberts found purpose in helping and connecting with others through his work, he shared.
But Roberts’ world flipped upside down in July when his full-time employer let him go.
“[The insurance company] and I had a conversation about a year ago over a social media post I wrote, calling them out about not talking about diversity and inclusivity,” Roberts said. “That conversation was pretty revealing to me on how our values did not align.
“Fast forward [to June], which was my best month of the year, I was telling them about my progress and getting positive feedback along the way,” he continued. “… So it was a surprise, but there were moments along the way that showed their true colors.”
It ended up being a blessing in disguise, Roberts said — noting his transition into business development FairWave and work with Black Drip. The pivot has also given him more time to focus on Kinship Cafe and it’s partnerships, he noted.
He already has several other businesses lined up to use the space when he’s not offering cupping sessions or other special events.
“Wesley Hamilton from Disabled But Not Really will pull up, and we will do community workouts on Saturdays,” Roberts shared, excitedly. “This will be a space for financial literacy as well as after school programming. I’ve talked with some vendors who will be offering cooking classes and healthy eating classes. I’m super jazzed about this all coming together.”
When it fully launches this fall, the cafe is expected to be open 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Fridays for regular business. From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on the weekends, Kinship Cafe’s focus on community programming, Roberts said.
Friday’s pop-up will serve as a good preview, he emphasized, noting vendors also will include Violet Crown Coffee, WyldKard Lifestyle, Crown Kreations Cakes, Kevin Manning known as DJ 2K, TUF Club, Peace in Pain Candles and Feel State KC.
To help with the first year of rent and utilities, Kinship Cafe launched a GoFundMe. Click here to learn more or donate.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.