Jevona Watson pleads guilty of doing what most people do in their neighborhoods.
“As a resident, I too have been guilty of minding my own business to the detriment of the community,” says Watson, an attorney, who decided to do something to improve the Bagley neighborhood on Detroit’s west side where she has lived since 2005.
She opened a coffee shop—Detroit Sip—to “bring people together over a cup of coffee.”
Initially, she simply wanted to give University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove students a reason to venture outside of their gated communities to truly experience the neighborhood.
“Pretty early on, I realized the potential that the coffee shop had to do so much more,” she says.
Her vision became a reality in November when Detroit Sip, located at 7420 W. McNichols, opened to much fanfare.
Since the grand opening, which attracted hundreds, she struggles to attract a steady clientele.
But she’s fulfilling the vision of being more than a coffee shop. Various functions are held there regularly.
Students from the colleges tutor neighborhood kids. The space acts as a kind of undercover catalyst for economic development as pop-up shops and local vendors periodically offers goods and services there.
A couple recent examples:
Restaurateur hopefuls Tamu and Charles McKaye hosted a sampling of their sweet and savory crepes for their catering company and creperie, Crepe City. The event helped raise funds for their own brick and mortar.
A writers workshop, free and open to the public, was held last Saturday (Feb. 24). It offered residents help with a variety of writing styles from “from resumes to rap,” says workshop facilitator writer Khary Frazier.
Watson, who works fulltime as an attorney in family court in Macomb County, says she has wanted to offer such a place since 2004. She saw the power of coffee shops to bring diverse people together when she lived in East Lansing.
Making that dream a reality required courage to step out of her comfort zone, commitment to stick to it through challenges and support from family, friends and nonprofits that support local entrepreneurs.
Among those who assisted was her close friend Ernest Smith of American Property Management Services, who did a lot of the remodeling and construction work. He continues to pitch in, even learning to make lattes and cappuccinos.
Her two teenaged children can sometimes be found working in the shop as well.
Working at Detroit Sip balances her legal work.
“In my legal career, I see a lot of broken people dealing with broken pieces trying to navigate an imperfect system. The coffee shop brings me gratification when I see pieces come together, connections being made , strangers sitting at tables together , mindsets about Detroit and its people being changed.”
The business requires sacrifices, especially her time and money. But she has no regrets.
“As I continue to grow older and wiser, I appreciate that everything we do in life has a price. The sacrifices that we make are pretty accurate illustrations of our priorities and the price that we are willing to pay for them.”
“I work hard but for the first time in my adult life I’m in love with my work.