There is an old saying: “Go where you’re appreciated and not tolerated.”
Many of Chicago’s South Siders took the adage to heart after recent incidents at Starbucks garnered national attention. Starbucks, the world’s largest coffeehouse chain, has seen public backlash after a cellphone video captured the arrests of two Black men who were waiting for a friend in one of its Philadelphia stores.
Outrage sparked boycotts all over the nation–especially in Chicago–such as the one headed by the Black Star Project.
“This is not about coffee. This is not about tea. This is not about hot chocolate. This is about young Black men in America, and Black families, and Black people having a place here in America,” says Philip Jackson, Executive Director.
Groups around the nation, with their righteous anger, took to the streets to protest the company. Most expressed their grievances on social media timelines. But this past Saturday, a local Black-owned coffee shop saw a heavy influx in business due to a call to make “Black Dollars Matter.”
Sip & Savor coffee spot, located on 43rd and Forrestville–deep in the heart of Bronzeville–was booming Saturday after sending out flyers to make “Black Dollars Matter.” Many daily customers and Chicago notables poured into the coffee shop to order their favorite menu items, commune with Black Chicago, and discuss the events that sparked the occasion.
“I always look at in two [ways]. When something like this happens, it can either be a moment or a movement,” says Trez Pugh III, owner of Sip & Savor. “Right now, it’s a moment. Everybody feels good about going out and spending their dollars with Black businesses at the moment. [If it is ] a movement remains to be seen because more people must get involved and we cannot let it die.”
In his 13th year as owner of Sip & Savor, Pugh’s Hyde Park and Bronzeville locations are critically acclaimed, financially successful, and an example of what many Black Chicagoans envision as the epitome of a community business. Pugh believes Sip & Savor’s good reputation comes from its ability to offer what competitors cannot.
“There are local artists who have their art up here. Local musicians perform at the patio in the back. I based my company on the 5 C’s–crisp, clean, classy, consistent, and customer service. You abide by 5 C’s, you can’t go wrong. When things happened at the other company, it became a teachable moment for my employees,” says Pugh.
Pugh didn’t organize the Black Dollars Matter event by himself. “I received a call from Austin saying that he would love to partner with my shop to put this together.”
Austin Robinson, 28, owns Member’s Only boutique, a clothing boutique based in the Homewood suburb. The Starbucks incident pushed him to reach out to Pugh to start a relationship and begin collaborating under the focus of “Black Dollars Matter.”
“I just got fed up,” says Robinson. “A couple of months ago, there was an issue with H&M’s racist ads. This month it’s Starbucks. I’m not just going to sit and wait for an apology, and then go back to spending money with them. I contacted Trez. I called and emailed hoping he would get back to me. Our goal is just to get people in the door to see how great Sip and Savor is. It’s beautiful.”
“Every negative Black stereotype that exists about business, they [Sip and Savor] shatters it. The customer service is A1. The prices are affordable. Instead of going to other businesses and beg them to treat us right, why not just spend with our own? We gotta spend Black first.”
Robinson even brought his son to the Sip and Savor. Mama Evelyn, a longtime activist and community organizer based in Roseland, commended Robinson on being active in his son’s life in light of negative depictions of Black fatherhood. She then gifted his son with $7 on behalf of the National Block Club University. Both then posed for a picture in front of several women at Mama Evelyn’s table.
“That’s the community we need,” says Robinson. “It’s really simple to support Black business. We have so many celebrities and influencers with social media. Chance the Rapper can literally tweet out ‘Hey, shop at Sip and Savor’ and everyone will be up here right now supporting the business. It’s that simple.”
You can find Austin Robinson’s Member’s Only Boutique at 18063 Dixie Highway Homewood.
Sip and Savor’s locations are: 528 E 43rd St and 5301 S Hyde Park Blvd.