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Mother-Daughter Team Builds Cooperative Coffee Shop in Sherman Heights

Cafe X: By Any Beans Necessary is helping to anchor the multi-use 1835 Studios.

Two smiling women stand back to back.
L to R: Cynthia M. Ajani and Khea Pollard
Cafe X

A community-minded coffee shop has found a permanent place to land in Sherman Heights where it’s a foundational member of 1835 Studios, a creative hub that houses a mix of retail, art, and event venues. Though Cafe X: By Any Beans Necessary launched its first storefront on El Cajon Boulevard in late 2019, it was forced to shutter in 2020 after the COVID-19 shutdown and its landlord subsequently selling the building.

Co-owned by Khea Pollard and her mother, Cynthia M. Ajani, the Black-owned business is now open Tuesday through Friday on Imperial Avenue, with a grand opening event being held from 9:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. on Monday, February 28. At 1835 Studios, it shares the 17,000-square-foot space with galleries and shops as well as an outdoor rock climbing gym and food trucks; Chef Buddha Blasian Soul Foods is currently parked on site, with more food trucks to come.

A coffee bar with artwork on the walls.
Cafe X at 1835 Studios.
Cafe X

Created as a welcoming space for artist talks, community discussions, and other events and offering a menu of coffee and tea drinks, from a wild berry tea mixed with lemonade and fresh fruit to the Shabazz, a latte flavored with hot honey and black and white chocolate that’s named for Malcolm X, the cafe’s namesake, Cafe X has another purpose: to help propel systemic change for marginalized communities in San Diego.

Pollard and Ajani, who’ve devoted their careers to healthcare and public service, have positioned Cafe X is a stakeholder, along with San Diego for Every Child and Jewish Family Service of San Diego, in the development the Black Women’s Resilience Project, a program designed to support generational wealth building in underserved communities and tackle racial and gender inequalities by providing a guaranteed income to Black women. They’re also working with youth training organizations, creating internships that could translate into careers with the cooperative. Pollard tells Eater that Cafe X is just the first of several employee-owned businesses she’s planning to build in San Diego; she hopes to open another cafe in the South Bay and even expand her mission to include a full-service restaurant.

Cafe X: By Any Beans Necessaery

1835 Imperial Avenue, San Diego, CA 92102

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