Soapbox Media | Rene Brunelle | 14 September 2010
Approaching Corner BLOC Coffee in East Price Hill's Incline District, the building looks more like its former laundromat space than the artisan coffee house pouring some of the best Sumatra in the city that's also brewing community development.
Opened in November 2007 by Dwight Young, founder of BLOC Ministries, the coffee shop began as a catalyst for change in a community that struggles to provide a safe and positive place for its neighbors. Corner BLOC is a nonprofit to creating a space for people in the neighborhood so that kids have a secure place to go and experience something different - not a convenience store or fast food restaurant.
"There weren't any good places to hang out or that cared about the neighborhood beyond making money. They created a business to revitalize the area," says Daniel Smyth, a volunteer and advocate for Corner BLOC.
Three days a week, an after school program is offered in the two lounge-type rooms parallel to the coffee shop that offer Cincinnati Public Schools students in the area homework help, mentoring, and a positive presence in their lives. Wednesday evenings a dinner is provided to students who attend the after school program; two computers with Internet access give students the opportunity to do homework and for people in the neighborhood to apply for jobs and work on their resumes.
Based on the philosophy of third places, with the first being the home, second being work or school and third becoming the place where one can feel like a "regular" and a part of their community, Corner BLOC provides that place. It's all just word of mouth, kids telling their friends because they love it and want to share it with somebody else," says Smyth.
"Enough people believe in our vision and how we're going about it to make it happen," says Rhett Harkins, a barista who's making sacrifices in his own life to be able to contribute to the coffee shop's cause. "It's really a beautiful thing. This is a neighborhood where people would say you couldn't build a coffee shop. We lose money every day we're open but greater things than that are produced. We see kids and families encouraged to be here that lived here for last 30 years before things went awry. To them, Corner BLOC is a beacon of hope."
Corner BLOC is located at 3101 Price Avenue in East Price Hill. Hours are Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Closed Sunday. Find out more information here or follow on Twitter @CornerBLOC.