Today we’d like to introduce you to Khea Pollard.
Khea, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been in San Diego all my life. Born and raised here, went to college here, attaining a Masters Degree locally. I’m as native as it gets. My mother’s side of the family is local and my father’s side of the family is in Pennsylvania. When I was about 10 years old, I moved from Kearney Mesa to Valencia Park in Southeast San Diego- the neighborhoods my grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins lived in.
Prior to that, my family moved around quite a bit. I remember stabilizing in the “hood” after a property manager in Kearney Mesa called my dad a N*****. Now, if anyone reading this knows my dad, you know that didn’t end well. Before I knew it, we were on Logan Avenue in Southeast. Hah! From Logan to Klauber (Encanto), Meadowbrook, back down to Alderley Street – I spent my formative years moving around the area.
Even before I lived in these communities, I was being bused to school at Oak Park Elementary, went to Nubia Leadership Academy, and Community Preparatory School. I’m giving all this detail because I’m not who I am, and this business doesn’t exist without the journey, these relationships and my family. My parents are proud (and smart) people. They chose to send me to schools and environments where I would be taught and nurtured by people like me. Where I could be creative, lead and feel a sense of belonging. That doesn’t happen by accident or osmosis.
My parents adamant that I know my history and understand where I come from, way before I went to college at the University of San Diego. Thank goodness. That’s a political act for a Black family in America. They planted seeds that led me to my major(s) in Ethnic Studies and English and my current career in public policy.
Now, I’m fortunate enough to serve the community I grew up in as a Community Representative and Policy Advisor to San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox. Being privileged enough to work in government at this level has made me a balanced and strategic thinker. The more I work and place myself in positions to learn systems and experience leadership, the more I see the necessity of working at all levels to make a change.
The idea for Café X came from a leadership fellowship program I participated in called RISE San Diego. The program focuses on civic engagement, increasing the capacity of “urban” leadership (aka People of Color), and providing opportunities for these leaders to build together. Fellows had to work on a passion project and I wanted to open this business in the heart of Southeast. I wanted to create a space for healing and connecting but also for mobilizing to challenge forces that want to label, rename, and claim the area and the people in it.
This community is brilliant, full of culture, creativity and divergent perspectives. There is a lot of in-fighting but there are easily many more commonalities and unity where you look for it. I want to build bridges and that requires honesty, patience, the readiness to lean into complexity to solve problems.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Absolutely not. When I had the idea back in 2015, it was a bookstore and café. Seems simple enough to me. But I had [some] community leaders telling me our community doesn’t read or won’t buy books. That people won’t invest in the idea. That a community center is unnecessary because we have Malcolm X Library. And just general flakiness with folks not wanting to put in the work, disappearing from the team without notice or being hesitant to solidify an actual partnership.
It got so discouraging and annoying that I stopped pushing it for a long while simply because I have other opportunities, a life, and activities to occupy my time. It wasn’t until my friend Ferchil Ramos called me out of the blue, end of last year, to put the offer on the table again that I got back onboard with the planning. This is just as much his business as it is mine. Same with the homie Parker Edison. These two have been the constant drivers on this path to business incorporation and are co-owners.
Now, we have a stable, Down, nonprofit partner in Pillars of the Community who is and has been doing important work. All it took was a phone call from Ferchil and an introduction. Even now as we establish and incorporate there are challenges. And obstacles are to be expected with any cooperative venture. None of us are any less busy than the next person – we’ve just committed to being busier in pursuit of something greater than us.
Café X: By Any Beans Necessary – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
A coffee shop is not a new idea. Nor is a bookstore or library. In fact, I know and have met a few people in recent months who say they want to do the same thing, in the same area.
We are doing:
Café X: By Any Beans Necessary is a worker-owned co-op. That sets us apart from the classic, capitalistic, profit-making enterprises, for profits sake. We want to enrich our member-owners, pass on communal wealth and knowledge, and provide welcoming space to organize and learn from one another. Café X is a model for how we want to do business as a connected community.
We are a permanent venue for coffee, community-based events and local educational support for community members. We want to work with people who are willing and able to share expertise and increase equalization of knowledge in the community. The relationships between us are equitable and cooperative.
We have to contend with current power dynamics in terms of the predominance of large corporate commercial ventures in the neighborhood. The current status quo is exemplified in the Starbucks corporate fast food coffee venue in Market Creek Plaza. This is part of the root cause of the problem – the lack of locally owned businesses due to Starbucks corporate resources and branding that give them an unfair advantage over smaller venues.
Maybe not back in 2015, when I started, but now I think there are a readiness and capacity for change in the current system because of the desire for alternatives to Starbucks. The collective community can provide goods and services corporate cannot. These goods and services are points of connection and include branded, personally sourced brands of coffee, a library, locally produced merchandise, locally sourced foodstuffs and educational, cultural and creative programs with our nonprofit partners. The possibilities are endless.
We are a venue that goes beyond the high-volume commercialized coffee consumption that is currently the only option in Encanto for those who want to consume coffee. We aim to revitalize a tradition of community-owned gathering venues that have been displaced by corporate-driven redevelopment initiatives.
Café X is open to collaboration with cooperative members and partners in the community as well as community participation in the form of an advisory board, employment opportunities and vendor opportunities. We want to break ground with a complete build-out of The Spot in Fall/Winter of this year.
I’m encouraged by similar coffee operations that have opened up in surrounding areas like Project Reo, Dojo Cafe, and City Heights Coffee.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is me against me. I think, with everything I do, I must measure my intent against the reception and impact on the individual(s) I’m serving. It’s not a success if these two things are not in positive alignment. It’s not all about patronage, money saved, or earned revenue but your impact now and into the future. With this venture and with public policy, I’m looking for anecdotes, data points and other signs of community cohesion, all at the same time.
- Address: 6443 Imperial Avenue, San Diego, CA 92114
- Website: cafe-x.squarespace.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @byanybeans
- Facebook: fb.me/byanybeans
Alanna Airitam Photography