Wade Rathke, founder for ACORN and the relatively proud new owner of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, had a little chat with Ian McNulty this week about the beloved neighborhood coffee spot, a place Rathke characterizes as a "social enterprise venture." Fair Grinds is now operated as a "low-profit limited liability company," and funnels a portion of its revenues to community organizing efforts in beleaguered coffee-producing countries. Rathke believes that the modern coffeehouse can help strengthen the "weak links" social media has established between people, and, though he's still a bit of a coffee novitiate (he confesses that it took him "a while" to refine his espresso-making skills), he knows all about community organizing and believes he's creating a space for it at Fair Grinds.
He's also made a point of using fair trade coffee so that patrons can toil on their unfinished novels and screenplays without worrying about having helped exploit coffee growers in satisfying a caffeine craving. Rathke explains, "Fair trade guarantees (growers) that if they do it organically they'll get a better price for it. Then you're not at the point of exploiting a bunch of sharecroppers, and you can enjoy your coffee without worrying about that."