by Len Lear
Blew Kind, a 32-year-old Germantown resident, is a complex gumbo of hippie, intellectual, offbeat businessperson, activist, healer and visionary. She is on the board of Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together (GREAT), a grassroots cooperative ownership, resource/skill-sharing group but cannot devote as much time as she would like since she is raising three children and owns and operates a most unusual coffee shop seven days a week. (She has had three days off during the entire pandemic.)
The coffeeshop, a throwback to the 1960s, is Franny Lou’s Porch at Coral and York Streets in East Kensington. You can tell it is different by the names of her sandwiches (“The Anti-Capitalist,” “Anti-Drone” and “Pro-Love”) or the teas like “The Sparrow’s Fall,” “Voice of the Children” and “Songs for the People,” which are named after poems by the late Frances Harper.
“Word of mouth got to me about Franny Lou’s Porch like a torch to kindling,” said Ailnhe Pascal of Citywidestories.com. “This community-oriented business, offering coffee and safe space in Kensington, sounded too good to be true. Free diapers, menstrual pads and art supplies fill the café, encouraging ownership and helping meet daily needs of those who walk in … This is a practice of manifesting the world we believe in by taking a stake in it.”
The name of the café is an homage to Fannie Lou Hamer, a bright light in the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the 1960s, and Frances Harper, the first African American woman to have a book (“Two Offers”) published (in 1859). In fact, Blew created her own name 12 years ago. Her first name is a combination of elements of her birth name (which she would rather not disclose) and “Kind,” something the world could use a whole lot more of.
A native of Virginia, Kind came to Philly to attend the University of the Arts in 2008 but left after two years to open a coffee house, Leotah’s Place, in East Kensington, where she was living at the time. Kind had to close it in 2014 “because the wall was falling off, and the Department of L & I shut it down,” she said. “We were doing really well there, so we opened across the street at Coral and York Streets in 2015.
“I needed a catchy name for the new place, so I named it for two people I admire greatly. This is a healing place for artists and activists, a place for people to connect instead of separating. There is so much racism and judgmentalism in society, but my thing is that we are all one. The black community should support each other. It’s in my blood. In common we can do anything. We’re weak when isolated. I’d rather be a healer and connect people to spirit. My father had some Native American in his background. I have a Christian background, but I have gotten away from that. I am very interested in indigenous people.”
There is an old saying that when one door closes, another door opens, but in the case of Blew, one door closed when the pandemic took hold, but then a window opened. In other words, the front door to the coffee shop closed because customers were no longer allowed into food establishments, so in the second week of March, the shop’s sales almost disappeared, and Kind had to lay off almost all of her 12 employees.
But then Kind opened a side window after using paint and building materials to make it inviting, and customers began returning, buying food and drinks out of the side window. The “Porch” can also seat 20 people outside in a garden, which a volunteer in the neighborhood takes care of. Also, some grants were approved, and a GoFundMe page that started out at a snail’s pace began to pick up steam.
“Right after the protests began, it took off,” she said. “There was a surge of energy. We are blessed. People wanted to help black-owned businesses.”
All of Kind’s food is local. “We have to get back to authentic,” she said. “People are attracted to that. I am all about creating a space where you are empowered in mind and spirit. My mantra is that we are all valuable, but so many of us have been isolated, disconnected, only being connected to electronic devices. But I had a vision and followed it. I left school to open a coffee shop, even though I had no money or experience and was just 22. I knew I needed to do it, even though I felt so foolish. And 10 years later I’m still doing it … I knew I needed more wisdom, though, so I am bringing in two partners in September.”
Kind’s children are 8, 5 and 11 months. The older two go to Lotus Academy in East Germantown and Greene Street Friends School. For more information, visit frannylousporch.org.
Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com
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