AUBURN GRESHAM — A popular South Side coffee shop is closing its doors next month, but the owners said they will reopen soon.
Afro Joe’s Coffee & Tea, 8344 S. Halsted Ave., is closing April 10 after more than a year serving specialty coffee and treats, owners Kendall and Aisha Griffin said. The Auburn Gresham staple will temporarily relocate to another neighborhood — its location is yet to be determined — until they can find another permanent home in Auburn Gresham, Kendall Griffin said.
The couple announced the news to customers Monday.
“We opened this coffee shop to service this area, and we are really proud of what we were able to accomplish in the year that we were here,” he said. “All of the things that we’ve been able to accomplish and the people that we’ve been able to partner with, those relationships are still there, and we will continue to build on that. Ultimately, we know we’re going to wind up back in the area.”
The Griffins said they had not planned to close. Afro Joe’s landlord declined to renew the coffee shop’s lease “without an explanation or reasoning,” and told them the lease would not be renewed “under any circumstances,” Kendall Griffin said.
“We thought that if we come into this space, do the business and pay our rent on time, we’d get our lease extended with no problem,” Kendall Griffin said. “But, unfortunately, that didn’t work out. We tried pretty much everything to no avail. At the end of the day, it’s the landlord’s building, and they didn’t want us here.”
Their landlord, Bonciel Griffin-Burress, who is the sister of one of the owners and runs a dental practice on the other side of the building, confirmed she did not renew the coffee shop’s lease.
“We couldn’t come to a mutual agreement upon renewing the lease and thought it would be best to part ways,” Griffin-Burress said. “They have a great product and a great brand, and I’m sure no matter where they go, they’re not going to lose their following. They are an asset to the community, and I wish them well and bigger and better things in the future.”
Afro Joe’s opened in October 2020 with the aim of giving Auburn Gresham residents a neighborhood coffee shop without pretentiousness, Kendall Griffin said at the time.
Despite two burglaries in August, the owners pledged to stay put and praised the community for their encouragement to keep their business going.
When they learned they had to leave, their first concern was their nine employees, Aisha Griffin said. They decided the best plan was to reopen the shop wherever they could — even if that meant temporarily leaving Auburn Gresham, she said.
The owners said they will announce the location of the temporary shop soon.
“Our employees have families and other things that they have to take care of, so we wanted to make sure that we didn’t lose a beat with that,” Aisha Griffin said. “While we might be closed for a week or so while we get everything back up and running, we won’t miss too much. And even though it’s not in Auburn Gresham, it allows us to stay open and keep our employees employed so we don’t lose momentum. That was a big thing for us.”
But taking their business out of the community even temporarily is gutting, Kendall Griffin said.
“This is probably one of the only places in Auburn Gresham where people from the community can come here during the day to work and socialize in a comfortable setting where they feel welcome,” he said. “That’s really the piece that’s hard for us — losing that community while losing the space.”
The Griffins said they’re determined to find a permanent space in Auburn Gresham they can own and safeguard their future in the neighborhood.
“We’re more determined than ever to come back to the neighborhood and come back as owners so that this can’t happen in the future,” Kendall Griffin said. “Our promise to everyone is that we will continue this journey. This is just a bump in the road like all businesses have. We will persevere and come out on the other side better.”
It will be business as usual until they close. Customers can stop in for a cup of Joe or a sweet pastry until April.
“If we had to go back, there’s nothing we would change,” Kendall Griffin said. “It was such a beautiful experience from when we first opened the doors to now. We’ve learned so much and we’ve grown so much, and people have been so supportive and patient. Afro Joe’s has a bright future. We won’t be gone long.”
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