Across the country, local mutual aid networks and initiatives, originally formed as temporary fixes in the wake of the pandemic, have persisted throughout the winter months, transforming the momentum from a summer of social unrest and community activation into tangible, and lasting infrastructures of care. One such initiative is Daughter, an eagerly-anticipated Crown Heights, Brooklyn coffee shop that is prioritizing community needs by building mutual aid into its business model.
From its inception, Daughter has committed to feeding and giving back to the surrounding Crown Heights community. The coffee shop’s unique vision includes donating 10 percent of its quarterly profit to local organizations, such as Ancient Song, a Brooklyn-based doula organization offering its services to women of color and low income families. Annually, Daughter hopes to donate 25 percent of its profits toward funding a creative business endeavor of someone in the neighborhood. Beyond this financial commitment to the local economy, Daughter wants to make sure that no one in the community is going hungry. The cafe plans to hold “family meals,” where anyone can join Daughter staff for a cafeteria-style meal between the hours of 4-5PM.
Daughter is the brainchild of Adam Keita, an alum of Sey Coffee and Daymoves, who was inspired by visits to cafes in Europe that were practicing circular economics as well as the communities that defined his upbringing in Harlem and the Bronx, to open a zero-waste community cafe. Prior to the pandemic, Keita approached Sarah Elisabeth Huggins and Brian Stoothoff, both of whom he had previously met working at Partners Coffee, about opening the space together. While these plans were put on hold as the city went into lockdown, it was during the summer’s protests that the owners realized the community element of the cafe was still wanted and needed.
Like many other businesses weathering the pandemic, much has shifted for Daughter since the Fall of 2020 when the business was first announced. The coffee shop pushed its opening date, which was originally slated for December, to April in order to continue raising money to fund the build-out of the kitchen and cafe interior. During that time, the owners behind Daughter have stayed busy, running a coffee cart offering specialty coffee and fresh pastries from Leo Sourdough from the entrance of their space. They’ve also taken the time to get to know their neighbors better, offering free pastries and coffee throughout the fall in exchange for conversation.
“Our central values of mutual aid and community have stayed consistent throughout our opening process. It’s the one thing none of us are willing to budge on. The only thing that’s changed has been the timeline,” says Huggins, “Our experience with running a business centered around giving back to our neighbors has revealed that, when balancing the expenses of a business, giving is as hard as it seems, but if you build it into daily operations, it becomes seamless.”
According to Keita, flexibility has been a key approach in executing the vision of Daughter in spite of the financial hardships that come with starting a business in the midst of a pandemic, “People have been so supportive about us. It gave us a sense that we can reach out to the community and just ask. If the banks aren’t going to give it to us and we say we are for the community, we also have to be comfortable with asking the community for help.”
The owners of Daughter see themselves and their mission as a part of a greater movement of restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores that are thinking critically about how to better center the community in their work and what local food networks have the potential to be.
Keita references a recent merch sale Daughter held where a percentage of proceeds were donated to Ancient Song, “I was disappointed at first because we didn’t raise the amount of money I was hoping to donate, but the next day I woke up and saw that Hart’s Diner over in Bed Stuy had joined us in saying that they would be joining us in donating a percentage of that day’s profit to Ancient Song. And then another group joined the movement too.”
For Keita, this domino effect is the ultimate goal in building a more resilient community, “I don’t think we can always do everything we want to achieve, but if we can inspire others to take up the mantle while watching us try, then things become a lot easier. Because it is difficult when you’re doing it by yourself, but if everyone starts making adjustments in their approach and their lives, those small increments are where change happens.”
Daughter will be opening April 24th. If you would like to contribute to their efforts, you can donate on Venmo at @Daughter1090.