2 Black Female Entrepreneurs Are First To Open At New Development In St. Paul’s Frogtown

Olivia Stevens
Pioneer Press

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Olivia Stevens reports, “About two months after opening in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, two Black female entrepreneurs are hoping to use the success of their distinct businesses to give back to the community.”

St. Paul

The commercial space of Frogtown Crossroads, located at University Avenue and Dale Street, now houses the businesses of Joyce Sanders and Shaunie Grigsby. Sanders owns the clothing store Urban 29, and Grigsby is owner of the Flava Cafe.

While the other three spaces in the Neighborhood Development Committee’s portion of the building currently sit vacant, NDC founder and CEO Mike Temali said he’s excited for what the two new ventures have begun to bring to the area.

“It’s a fantastic psychological boost for this community, to have a gathering place,” said Temali, referencing the new cafe. “The fact that it’s Black women entrepreneurs is a huge message to this community … and business owners building wealth, building culture and holding ground essentially is branding this corner as a dynamic, entrepreneurial space.”

While the path to opening hasn’t been easy for Sanders and Grigsby, they both hope to support the diverse and historic neighborhood.

A banker who became interested in fashion and had seen friends find success running their own businesses, Minneapolis native Sanders opened Urban 29’s first location in Minneapolis in 2019 on the corner of Lake Street and Chicago Avenue. The store features urban clothes for men.

“I just wanted to create my own avenue, my own life,” said Sanders. “I just wanted to invest in myself, and since I had great customer service skills and the passion, it just kind of grew from there.”

Sanders’ Minneapolis location found success and was about to celebrate its first anniversary when the police killing of George Floyd drew riots to the area. The building that housed Urban 29 was burned, forcing Sanders out of the area.

Sanders secured a space at the Mall of America in Bloomington last year, but sees the new Frogtown location, which opened in July, as an opportunity to take back what she feels was lost in Minneapolis.

At the store’s grand opening, Sanders ran a backpack drive and gave out free food to those stopping by, and she said this winter she plans to hold similar events to build trust and show her support for Frogtown residents.

“I’m hoping that the business will grow, and then I can become part of this community,” said Sanders. “I plan on having these little events so the community can get to know us and we can give back to the community as well.”

Flava Cafe owner Grigsby, who moved to North Minneapolis eight years ago and pursued a graduate’s degree at the University of Minnesota, knew she wanted to support neighborhood development through young people when starting her coffee shop.

To accomplish that goal, Grigsby has intentionally hired local youth ages 15 to 24 to help develop and run her whimsical, comfortable and brightly-colored shop. From marketing the cafe on social media to helping with sales at farmers’ markets, Grigsby hopes to act as a mentor to help young people find success long term.

“I was interviewing people before I even developed a program to learn ‘what are the things that will make it valuable for you to want to show up every day?’ ” said Grigsby. “They really want more intention focused on them as individuals and how to help them really develop their careers.”

Outside of these efforts, Grigsby said she has enjoyed having simple, everyday interactions with people in town and said she’s received positive feedback since opening in July.

“We get feedback from people coming in that this is the type of place they’ve always wanted, but didn’t quite know how or when it would happen,” said Grigsby. “Folks are happy to have us here as a coffee shop, but also people will just come to read or do homework, which hasn’t really been an option near this corner before.”

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