April Spears, proprietor of comfort food eatery Auntie April's (4618 3rd St.) is launching a new venture, called Café Envy. The eatery will feature healthy fare and aims to foster community and create a model for young African-American entrepreneurs in the Bayview.
For Spears, expanding her business has been in the works for some time.
"The number of African-American owned restaurants in the city of San Francisco are few and far in between." she told Hoodline. "I can count those owned by black women on one hand. It's my passion to preserve the legacy of black businesses in this city and in my neighborhood especially."
"She's always been interested in doing other things," said Meaghan Mitchell, Spears' community partner and also a Hoodline reporter. "We sat down one day and talked about what we wanted to see in our district and shared a lot of the same interests."
Those interests, Mitchell said, stem from a variety of issues facing the community, like a lack of healthy food options, inspiring women of color to become entrepreneurs, and keeping families in a community where many have been either displaced or left in search of opportunities elsewhere.
The Bayview is also still considered a food desert, Mitchell said. "We are trying to adjust to that and change the energy around what people are consuming in our neighborhood."
Spears said she intends to provide a space that uplifts women.
"When people come from these underserved communities that have really suffered, and have to leave, they build themselves up and never look back," she said. "I want to do well, stay in the community, and have the rest of the community do well, too."
Café Envy will take over the former Monte Carlo nightclub and Creole restaurant space at Yosemite Avenue and Lane Street, which has gone through various transformations in recent years.
"We're trying to keep it active but not recreate the Monte Carlo, while giving a shoutout to the history of it but with a new vibe," Mitchell said. "It represents more than just a restaurant and bar. It's a community partnership."
Café Envy's menu will depart from the cuisine found at Auntie April's, which comprises of breakfast items and comfort standbys like chicken and waffles.
"We're working with a lot of organic food and everything will be made from scratch," Mitchell said. "And we're turning to the Bayview for inspiration. There's a long line of people who have built their brands and are making food and serving it to the community."
Expect to see items like a grilled shrimp salad, spinach salad with pomegranate and feta cheese, and organic mixed fruit. The team also hopes to work with neighborhood breweries and distilleries as well as source African-American owned wineries.
Spears and Mitchell launched a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for their new venture.
If all goes to plan, the pair are hoping for a Spring 2018 debut and plans to keep the café open daily from 11am–11pm.