Staying on ‘The Grind’

Two education professionals are starting a different kind of coffee shop, from the ground up.

By | Boston Daily |

Raul Fernandez and Austin Ashe have a grand vision of creating a space for artists, students, and entrepreneurs that would recycle profits earned from coffee sales and events back into organizations in the city that they say has given them so much.

“We were talking over a pint and our discussions ranged from politics, to social justice and service, and education. We were talking about entrepreneurism and making a difference,” said Ashe. “A pint turned into an idea, and over the past year we have decided to put our efforts into a coffee shop displaying the arts, and supporting students and university communities.”

Calling it “The Grind,” a name that indicates both their motivation to work tirelessly to bring the business to life, while incorporating an obvious pun, their idea for now is not much more than a website and a lot of local support from colleagues, friends, and business professionals. But as they move forward and look for property space to house their coffee shop, and launch a fundraising website to help pay for the initial costs of the business, they envision it will become a unique spot located near a Boston-area university that would press the importance of community development and innovative programs.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support. We have been talking to close friends and family so we can get some good feedback, and every conversation we have with someone new puts a little polish into what we have been working with,” said Fernandez, who is the associate director of student activities at Boston University. “People totally get it, and they get what it is we’re trying to do, and we need community involvement to make it happen. I think it will be a testament to the city.”

What sets the pair’s aspirations apart from, say, a typical coffee shop with a small alcove carved out for performers, is they want The Grind to be community built from the ground up. From funding through a Kickstarter campaign—which they plan to launch in April—to bringing in designers, architects, artists, and students to help create the space and then, later, work there.

“What makes it different from a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, or other shops in Boston and other places, is that Raul and I are keeping the focus on educating people, and that’s going to happen in a multitude of ways,” said Ashe. “We want this place to be not only one where you can get the best cups of coffee, but also to connect folks, hear different speakers, create an art gallery show, and host spoken word events.”

They said they would find real estate near one of Boston’s many universities so that students can find employment, managerial opportunities, and learn about starting a business.

The duo wants to provide an education outside of the classroom that will reflect the vision of the core aspects of the university they end up situating themselves near. “We will offer jobs to students and opportunities for leadership to manage the space. If you’re a student group, you can host events and study groups in the space,” said Fernandez.

While ideally they would like to have a soft opening by August, Fernandez and Ashe said they aren’t going to rush the project to just get it done. “If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it right,” said Ashe. “We have mapped out with friends that own coffee shops in other places, and got estimates. We both love Boston and want to see this city thrive and be at the cutting edge of any and all things.”

For now, they are looking to drum up additional community support, and get their message out to the masses, and to do so, they are asking anyone interested to “grind with us” by signing up for alerts and updates through their website. Already, tons of messages have been flooding their inbox.

“This can’t be done alone, we have to do this as a community, and get people involved. People can get connected with us; they can reach us. We have gotten so many messages from people already. It’s terrific. But now we’re reaching out to lots of other people who are doing their own projects, and figuring out how we connect together,” said Fernandez.