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Beverly, Mt. Greenwood, Morgan Park

Afro Joe’s Coffee Shop Opening In Beverly As City Grange Closes South Side Location

Owners Kendall and Aisha Griffin expect the shop to open in coming weeks: "We’re excited about introducing a new community to Afro Joe’s."

Atavia Reed/Block Club Chicago
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BEVERLY — Afro Joe’s Coffee & Tea, a popular South Side coffee shop, has finally found a new home and will reopen.

Neighbors can soon order lavender lattes, cold brews, short rib grilled cheese and more at the shop’s new location, 1818 W. 99th St. The location was once home to City Grange, a garden center. 

City Grange quietly announced the closure of both its Lincoln Square and 99th Street locations on its website.

Kendall and Aisha Griffin, the husband-and-wife owners, said they’re eager to bring a taste of their Auburn Gresham staple to Beverly. It’s been a “whirlwind” of a process to reopen, but they’re excited to bring “the same Afro Joe’s flavor” to the community.

“I grew up in the Beverly area, so it’s kind of like coming home,” Kendall Griffin said. “It’s bittersweet because we’re leaving Auburn Gresham, but we’re excited about introducing a new community to Afro Joe’s.”

Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
Kendall Griffin, with his wife, Aisha, and their daughter. The Griffins opened Afro Joe’s in Auburn Gresham October 2020.

Afro Joe’s opened in Auburn Gresham in October 2020. After noticing a lack of coffee shops on the South Side, the couple decided to bring “great-tasting coffee without the pretension” to the community, Kendall Griffin said at the time. 

Despite two burglaries in August, the owners vowed to stay in Auburn Gresham and praised the community for their encouragement to keep their business going.

But in March, the couple announced they’d have to relocate after their landlord declined to renew the coffee shop’s lease. The 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 because she and the owners “couldn’t come to a mutual agreement.” The shop’s last day in Auburn Gresham was April 10. 

The couple had already been working with City Grange to open a second location, they said. The new shop would have functioned as an express cafe with a limited menu. 

But as City Grange closed, they were offered an opportunity to take over the entire space and “everything fell into place,” Aisha Griffin said. 

“It’s funny how something that seemed like such a bad thing turned into a really good thing because it’s allowing us to grow,” Kendall Griffin said. “It almost feels too perfect.”

The new shop’s location is also a plus, Kendall Griffin said. Auburn Gresham residents are only a few minutes away from their old stomping grounds. Some customers have already pledged to make the quick drive, he said. 

“Most of our customers from the area said, ‘Hey, it’s not far away. We’ll see you when you open up,’” Kendall Griffin said. “We don’t think we’re going to lose many people. We think that they’re going to travel 2 to 3 miles to the new location. I think it’ll be cool to fuse the neighborhoods. We’ll get a really good crowd from Auburn Gresham and then the new crowd from Beverly.”

The new Afro Joe’s will have quite a few upgrades. 

Customers can still expect the fresh coffee and made-to-order meals that helped the shop establish a name for itself, Kendall Griffin said. Community discussions geared toward maternal health, children’s literacy and community building will still be on the calendar. Saturday Soul Sessions and art exhibitions aren’t going anywhere.

But thanks to the extra space the City Grange location offers, the shop will now have a larger kitchen and outdoor patio, on-site parking and more space to dine indoors. 

Pet owners can bring their dogs to what the Griffins are calling the “barking lot,” too. 

“We’re going to section off an area for our neighborhood dogs so … they can have a place to hang out that’s their home while their owners chill out and have a coffee and a sandwich,” Kendall Griffin said. 

When the location opens, it’ll be the second cafe to join the 99th Street Corridor — across the street is Two Mile Coffee Bar.

But the owners don’t see the other shop as a rival, Kendall Griffin said. They’re bringing more revenue to the community. 

“We don’t feel like there will be any bad blood,” he said. “Coffee shops are community spaces, and each shop has its own identity and aesthetic. The more businesses you have here, the more businesses it’ll generate, which is good for everyone. Good traffic and good business are beneficial to everyone.” 

Credit: Atavia Reed/Block Club Chicago
Owner Kendall Griffin stands next to the Afro Joe’s sign.

For the past few weeks, the Griffins have been moving at “lightning speed,” they said. After taking their first vacation since the start of the pandemic, the couple got to work. 

Kendall Griffin is painting the shop. Electricians and plumbers are renovating the space. The city is reviewing the shop’s business license. Soon, they’ll begin to hire more staff, Kendall Griffin said. 

For now, the goal is to get the shop open. Once it is, the real fun begins, Kendall Griffin said. 

“We’re looking forward to seeing our guests from Auburn Gresham. We miss them,” Kendall Griffin said. “And we’re excited to meet all the people in Beverly. We’re excited about the future, and we can’t wait to get open.”

The Griffins plan to stay true to their promise to return to Auburn Gresham, they said. They’re already in talks to secure funding for another location in the neighborhood. 

“We feel comfortable in the business, and now we’re trying to grow it,” Kendall Griffin said. “That’s the future for us: doing good business and expanding.”

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