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Cafe with a focus on social justice to open soon in Duluth

Jefferson People’s House collaborative member Adeline Wright (left) examines the work of sign painter Bruce Anderson (right) while Dave Stephen (background, left) and Allen Killian-Moore talk about the cafe that will open June 1. (Steve Kuchera / / 4
Jefferson People’s House collaborative members Chelsea Froemke (from left), Dave Stephen and Adeline Wright work in the cafe in on Tuesday morning. (Steve Kuchera / / 4
Jefferson People’s House collaborative member Chelsea Froemke positions a toaster on a bookshelf in the cafe Tuesday. The cafe will offer toast with a variety of toppings as well as bread, muffins and other baked goods. (Steve Kuchera / 3 / 4
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For those who might like their social justice served with coffee and toast, a new business collective in Duluth’s Endion neighborhood will serve it up and provide a space for conversation.

Jefferson People’s House expects to open June 1, a mere three months after the idea spread through a group of social progressives in the area. Its slogan, “Coffee, Books, Social Justice, Toast,” defines the space on 15th Avenue East, just below Superior Street in the space under the  Anytime Fitness building, formerly Stewart’s Bikes & Sports.

“Many magical things” came to fruition the past few months, said Adeline Wright, one of seven core members of the collective.

Member Dave Stephen worked upstairs at Stewart’s for decades and provides business acumen, Wright said, something she has in running the salon called Adeline’s on East Ninth Street. Allen Killian-Moore has experience in bakery collectives in Minneapolis and St. Louis, and, like Chelsea Froemke, has experience in book buying.

“It really happened organically,” Wright said, which makes sense with a business model that has no traditional hierarchy. Workers are dividing into committees to run the facets of the business. They democratically decide on which new and used books to sell, how to run the cafe portion and handle promotions.

“No one task is more important than any other one,” Stephen said. He cited the “inherently unfair disparity” between what CEOs of businesses like Starbucks earn and what frontline employees make.

“It’s a burgeoning movement,” Killian-Moore said of the collective. Duluth is no stranger to such enterprises, he said, with Positively 3rd Street Bakery and Whole Foods Co-op as models.

Wright said the neighborhood is dense in population but a cafe-type meeting place has been lacking there. She said the idea of a “radical cafe and bookstore” has rattled around in certain circles for years. On Tuesday, the historic stenciling on the window marking the new space was being applied.

The collective is open to anyone and is based loosely on the social justice work of the nearby Loaves & Fishes community on Jefferson Street. The members say the space will be a place for ideas and organizing. It plans to invite social justice groups to come in and talk about their work in the community.

“We want people to know we have a belief system, but it’s open to everyone,” core member Rachael Kilgour said.

There will be a system for people to “pay forward” for customers who might not have enough money to pay for a coffee or some toast. Those who donate will have a “free” card posted that people can use.

The collective is working to offer a simple $1 coffee option, something a person could “find in change on their car floor,” Stephen said.

People’s House also will be hosting fundraisers to get a community center back up and running in the neighborhood. Cuts in the city of Duluth’s budget meant the end of a program run out of Temple Israel.

But first, the collective has to raise money for itself as it gets up and running. It has started an online donation effort through the IndieGoGo site.

Despite owning her own business, Wright said she is hampered in the hair salon’s growth by the fact that “I don’t like being a boss. I want more of a collaborative effort.”

People’s House is working with small businesses for its supplies like Duluth Coffee Co. and regional bread makers. It will offer a variety of organic toppings for the toast, the quirky draw that members said symbolizes the comfortable, community effort there.

Already, people are walking by to see if the cafe is open, Wright said. Killian-Moore said strangers are coming up to him and asking about the new business since he appeared in a promotional video.

Wright laughed and said Killian-Moore is being followed by a group of enthusiastic young people who once yelled “Toast” at him.

“He’s the Pied Piper of toast,” she said.

If you go

* Jefferson People’s House, on 15th Avenue East between Superior and Jefferson streets, will officially open June 1 downstairs from Anytime Fitness. The cafe and bookstore will have a social justice bent but is open to everyone with an open mind, organizers said. It will serve coffee and toast and will sell new and used books on social issues. The plan is to be open early in the mornings and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

* Core collaborative member and musician Rachael Kilgour will lead the lineup of poetry, music and film during a fundraiser that begins at 7:30 Friday night at the Quaker Meeting House, 1802 E. First St.

* More about the Jefferson People’s House, including how to donate to the new cafe, can be found on the IndieGoGo site at: