“Is gentrification next?” asks the New York Times in a May 31, 2016 article by Jeff Gordinier. Majora Carter ’88, who is from the South Bronx, and her husband and business partner, James Chase, teamed up with Jeremy Lyman and Paul Schlader, entrepreneurs who created Birch Coffee. The result: they have brought “exposed brick, reclaimed wood and $2.75 macchiatos” to “a stretch of Hunts Point Avenue dominated by dime stores, bodegas and auto shops.”
To those who say they feel as though they are in Manhattan by the vibe in the shop, Carter responds, “’You know what? You are in the Bronx, and we can have this here as well.’”
Additionally, Gordinier notes that the fact of Carter’s longtime advocacy for the community does alleviate neighborhood concerns that the shop signals a trend toward pricey gentrification. Beginning with Sustainable South Bronx, which she founded in 2001, Carter has used her entrepreneurial skills to provide services, employment, and programs for the community in which she was raised. She and her husband put up the funds to begin this venture, since an upscale cafe in the Bronx was not an attractive risk to financial institutions they’d approached.
“And why should Manhattan have a monopoly on macchiato?” Gordinier concludes rhetorically. “’We like to see the work that we do as self-gentrification,’ Carter said. ‘People in low-status communities like nice things, too.’”