Written by: Kenya Ross
Thriving cities move forward through the support of local businesses with the zeal to invest, partner together, and provide solutions. In the Red River District of Downtown Shreveport, Marcus Mitchell, the owner of Bon Temps Coffee Bar, has the eagerness to become involved with the development of the economy through his business. From the time Bon Temps Coffee Bar opened in November of 2015, Marcus was dedicated towards ensuring the coffee bar was not only a business within the community, but a business that is a part of the community. His selfless endeavors have earned him recognition for the 2016 Small Businessman of the Year Award with the Shreveport-Bossier African-American Chamber of Commerce. Adding to his achievements, Marcus was awarded the 2017 Emerging Leader Award with the State of Black Shreveport, an organization aimed to engage in discussions confronting the challenges among the black community including any issues with local education advocates, elected officials, businesses, community leaders, citizens and clergy.
“What I recognized growing up in the city of Shreveport is that a lot of the businesses siphoned the resources from the communities, but they never put anything back into the communities. So when the schools were struggling, when the streets were torn down, or when the family lost a loved one, the businesses were never there to be a stop gap for the community,” said business owner Marcus Mitchell.
While proudly serving and wearing his badge of honor as an officer for the Shreveport Police Department during the day, he continues to exude his efforts in social activism through occasional gatherings at his coffee bar called “Town Hall Conversations.” This roundup happens periodically on a Sunday afternoon for local citizens to share topics on sensitive subjects that have an effect on the community. Although “Town Hall Conversations” is open to the public, it is an intimate atmosphere where recorded audio, pictures , and videos are not permitted. The purpose of this social gathering is to provide a safe place for concerned citizens to open up about conversations that may be uncomfortable and to express heartfelt opinions.
When Marcus decided to become an entrepreneur, he made it a part of each business’s mission he created to be resourceful in the community and have a philanthropic side to the business. It is visible in the logo he designed for Bon Temps Coffee Bar. There is a heart in the middle of the “o” in Bons , and that heart is there to be symbolic of the mission statement which is, “Good times, but also good hearts.”
Bon Temps Coffee Bar has gathered and sustained beneficial collaborations with nonprofit organizations in Shreveport. The main nonprofit organization the coffee bar is donating to and working along with is the Renzi Education and Arts Center in regards to their fundraising efforts. The Renzi Education and Arts Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that builds opportunities for children to continue learning, developing art after school with the center’s free after school program provided for children in grades K-12 all throughout the school year in Shreveport-Bossier City, LA.
“Throughout the year, our business, along with Renzi, collaborates on several fundraising projects in order to raise their income so they can provide the services for below privileged youth within the communities of Shreveport,” said Marcus of Bon Temps Coffee Bar.
On the other hand, Hope Connections is the foremost leader in regards to comprehensive care for homelessness in the city of Shreveport. The business strives to direct all of the homeless population towards them including providing resources and services.
By sending the homeless group to Hope Connections and additional registered nonprofit organizations in the area supplying needs for the less fortunate, they have access to resources other than food, water and toiletries. Services such as substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, job placement and medical treatments are the subsidiaries that are readily available for the ones in these unfortunate situations, and can help put a stop to homelessness for a long-term.
Marcus created a video of a homeless man sharing his story, which received over several shares, views , and “likes” on social media. The story of the homeless man is part of Bon Temps Coffee Bar’s ongoing campaign. Marcus and his staff has rededicated themselves over the last two years as they struggled to get the business on solid footing. The coffee bar is a business and Marcus pointed out that the first few years are the toughest years. As he went through some difficulties, he came out of it. He surpassed hardships and he refocused on the business’s mission which is a philanthropic nature, and that is when he decided he was going to start a campaign called, “A Cause for Coffee.”
“What ‘A Cause for Coffee’ campaign is about includes identifying different causes within our city and within our country that we can rally behind in order to raise funds and to give back or to bring light to– in regards to socioeconomic ills within our society. The first thing we wanted to do was one that we face almost daily. We are in downtown Shreveport , so there’s a sizable homeless population that we see on a daily basis. They come in, they ask for water, we see them out in front of our business and in our normal passings coming to and from work,” Marcus explained.
While observing the need for the homeless community, he and the staff were able to start with homelessness as their primary campaign for the current quarter. “A Cause for Coffee” is their current quarter’s campaign, and the cause is homelessness.
The goal of Marcus’s homelessness campaign is to expand from speaking with the homeless person to interviewing employees of institutions that caters to homelessness, their loved ones and people who encounter these individuals.