African American owned coffee shop looks to become next Starbucks with a different philosophy
OAKLAND, Calif. - While Starbucks is planning to close for a day of racial-bias training for its 175-thousand employees, one Oakland based coffee roasting entrepreneur says it isn't nearly enough.
"It feels more like a publicity stunt quite frankly. You see people of color on the front lines as baristas, but until the management and leadership of these coffee companies are as diverse as the communities they serve, I think it will be a re-occurring issue," said Keba Konte, founder of Red Bay Coffee.
Red Bay Coffee has two operations in Oakland and is expanding into Richmond.
"You could think of Red Bay as the black panther movie of the specialty coffee world," said Konte.
And he may be on the way. After news of the Starbucks racial bias incident against two African American men broke, actor Wendell Pierce, known for his role in HBO's The Wire, issued a tweet that read in part: "Red Bay Coffee Roasters in Oakland is an excellent alternative to Starbucks... African American owned with respect for the community Starbucks has offended. #BoycottStarbucks."
The tweet prompted replies from people asking Red Bay to come to their cities, perhaps moved by the company's social conscience.
"It's really the values here about inclusion and diversity are baked into our DNA.. We're able to identify the environment as a stakeholder. The community as a stakeholder. We're paying above minimum wage. We're doing profit sharing," said Konte.
Even before the tweet storm, Red Bay was planning on opening in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Baltimore by next year
Red Bay Coffee plans to be in 15 cities within five years and keep expanding from there.
"If we can lead by example, not only will other coffee companies follow, but other businesses will want to follow that model," said Konte.