Sonam Parikh grew up in her parents’ Bay Ridge corner store, a time pre-9/11 when, she says, “Brooklyn felt a lot more casual for Brown immigrant families.” But soon after the towers fell, her parents felt it was no longer a safe place for them to reside—and gentrification was well under way in the area, making their livelihoods untenable, forcing them to move out of the city. Parikh has thought about her parents’ business a lot—a community place where customers became her surrogate babysitters—as she launched Mina’s World, what she says is Philadelphia’s first-ever QTPOC-owned and operated coffee shop.
Named after Parikh’s cat that she parents with her partner and co-owner, Kate Egghart, the coffee shop doubles as a community hub. It’s a spot to find home goods made by local artists and pick up snacks and drinks that nod to Parikh and Egghart’s combined Indian and Korean roots (chai with rose syrup, yuja-cha, and samosas). Soon, they’ll roll out a specialty drink inspired by the Brazilian heritage of Paula Cooke, their manager of operations. Handmade, thoughtful touches dot the space, from the daffodil-yellow hand-tiling that Egghart helped design and in-lay, to the custom cow print ceramic tip jar made by artists Bee Daddy & Sons with Scott Cooper.
But Mina’s World is about more than just drinks and decor. It seeks to be an alternate kind of coffee shop in Philly: one that pays its employees fairly, has Black and Brown employees in managerial positions, prioritizes ethical sourcing when it comes to its coffee beans and never turns away a customer (“While we only accept credit card right now because of the pandemic, we heavily disagree with operating cashless. That rules out an entire group of people who probably need a hot meal more than most,” says Parikh, who currently gives free coffee and meals to those without a card on-hand). These tenets seem basic, but they’re radical in an era where so many new coffee shops can feel generic and exclusionary, their sterile, modernist aesthetics attracting a mostly white, wealthy customer base.
The West Philadelphia coffee spot—located on the corridor of 52nd Street—was only open for eighteen days before COVID-19 shut down the city in mid-March. And though they weren’t able to use the space as a comfy, welcoming hangout spot for people of marginalized identities, the feeling of a more equitable form of community has remained palpable and pleasurable, as seen with their to-go baggies with sharpie drawings of cats. “We don’t have any investors, so the odds are stacked so far against you running a business like this. But I would be a fool to think that I am generating this community myself. It takes a lot of trust and people to make this work,” she tells me. Below, Parikh breaks down how she and her team developed such a unique sense of place.
Thoughtfully sourced coffee with a message
“I have worked in coffee since I was 18. Most of the workplaces were really toxic in the sense that the workers were not being paid well and the white ownership neglected to protect their Black and trans employees. I knew there needed to be a space where you could have an amazingly made cup of coffee that’s not whitewashed. We use Passenger Coffee, based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for both our high-quality beans and our chai—they source with integrity, making sure their farmers are consistently bought from and not just dropped after one big sale or crop. The whole point of Mina’s is empowering Black and Brown people, and that means those who are doing the labor are also treated with that same level of respect. We’re working all the time on making accessible price points. That’s why drip coffee is $2.00 a cup—we don’t make a profit from it.”