Rondo Community Land Trust starts a new venture to support Black entrepreneurship

Rondo Community Land Trust starts a new venture to support Black entrepreneurship

Rondo Community Land Trust starts a new venture to support Black entrepreneurship

In St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood — a celebration and a new beginning on Saturday.

“Come on St. Paul, make some noise!” smiled Mychael Wright, the owner of Golden Thyme Coffee and Cake. “I just want to say thank you to every one of you.”

Wright and his wife Stephanie announced at the Selby Jazz Fest that after running the iconic coffee shop for 24 years, they are retiring.

And that’s not all.

The couple is selling the business to the Rondo Community Land Trust — which connects people to affordable, sustainable housing.

“This is like coming home for me,” says Executive Director Mikeya Griffin. “Really, really excited for the community that I grew up in — and look forward to creating more vibrancy here.”

The land trust is trying something new — planning to transition the Golden Thyme shop into what Griffin calls a ‘business accelerator.’

“We really want to help Black entrepreneurs, restauranteurs who want to put out their concept,” she explains. “We’ll have some long-term leases, and we’ll have some short-term pop-ups that will happen.”

“They want to bring folks who have the passion but maybe not the resources to have a storefront,” Wright adds.

He says the idea is just one part of a Rondo renaissance.

The historic Black neighborhood was cut in two during the construction of I-94 in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mayor Melvin Carter says 700 families, including his own, were displaced.

He notes they were never reimbursed the full value of their properties, a loss, he says, of $157 million in home or commercial equity.

“We are very adamant about continuing the success of minority-owned businesses,” declares Sammy McDowell. “We’re going to use (the Wright’s) name to pump out other small entrepreneurs out of this space.”

McDowell — owner of Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, a sandwich and coffee shop in Minneapolis, is one of the first to move into the space.

It will be known as ‘Golden Thyme Presents.’

They’ll keep the current business going — while mentoring other young entrepreneurs in bookkeeping, supply, and purchasing skills.

“Not just make a fabulous cake but know how much that cake costs to make and sell,” McDowell says. “So, we’re going to teach them those kinds of things, just work hand in hand with them, so they’re successful all around.”

For Griffin, this project is personal.

She says her family was displaced by the construction of I-94 but was able to find a new home in the area.

Griffin hopes Golden Thyme Presents will draw entrepreneurs to Selby Avenue, especially between Lexington Parkway and Dale Street.

“When I-94 happened to the community, to the Rondo community, a lot of those businesses came and settled somewhere also Selby Avenue,” she explains. “So, we are just really looking at preserving and accelerating and growing Black businesses along the corridor.”

Griffin says the land trust plans to launch the new venture on October 1st.

The group hopes to open a second business incubator on Selby Avenue in about six months.

 Meantime — Wright says he’s excited for those following in his footsteps.

“Instead of having to dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes even for a small coffee shop, they can come here and make sure it’s something they want to do,” he says. “But it takes a lot of passion to do it.”