Bottoms Up Coffee — New Co-Op With a Grand Social Mission
by Jennifer Bryant,
Photos by Maggie Holmgreen & Jennifer Bryant
West Broad in Franklinton might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about coffee.
While Columbus has more than its share of local coffee shops, most are concentrated in hip neighborhoods like German Village and the Short North. Franklinton? Not so much. The area has faced its share of troubles for decades, including a legendary flood, systemic generational poverty, and a lack of development or support. In a city that divides sharply into haves and have-nots, Franklinton has long been relegated to the bottom of the list. “The Bottoms.”
And while some developers have recently expressed interest in the area, growth comes with risks — for residents and new businesses alike. Opportunities can spell trouble for current residents, who may find themselves driven out as property values rise in the name of progress.
Sisters Victoria Calderón and Virginia Nunes are well aware of the challenges and opportunities facing Franklinton. That’s why they opened Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op in July 2016 with a purpose in mind: serving coffee while strengthening the community of Franklinton.
Revitalization, not gentrification, is what they aim to bring to the neighborhood.
At Bottoms Up, Calderón and Nunes provide a welcoming social space for neighborhood residents, business professionals, students, and anyone looking for a good cup of coffee.
“Coffee is a great connector; a coffeehouse is a place where people just talk,” Calderón said.
The sisters use the space to raise awareness — starting a conversation around infant mortality. An intense topic over a cup of coffee, for sure but an important one nonetheless.
Two years ago, when Calderón became a mother, she found out that Franklinton has an astonishingly high rate of infant mortality. Nunes received certification as a community health worker through OSU’s College of Nursing and has worked in Franklinton for since. The sisters are working with City of Columbus’ nonprofit, CelebrateOne, to reduce rates by 40 percent in the next five years.
A portion of the proceeds from coffee shop sales are donated to community nonprofits that provide resources, programs and services for low-income mothers, such as bus passes and prenatal care. Because paper products are not covered by food stamps, Bottoms Up also has a diaper fund to help fill the gap for new moms.
The idea is that reducing stress for new mothers will help promote safer, healthier environments for their babies.
The building that houses Bottoms Up started as a post office in 1914, the year after the flood that affected development in the area for decades to come. A giant mural painted on the side of the building pays homage to the homes that stood in this spot prior to the 1913 flood. Out front, an eye-catching giant pear sculpture created by a local artist sits near the door.
Inside, skylights and a large front window create a light, airy space, while hanging plants add a pop of color. The coffee shop manages to give off a cozy vibe without feeling cramped – no small feat, given that it has only a handful of tables. A bar facing the street provides additional seating.
A photo album on the counter is full of black-and-white photos that illustrate the area’s history. According to Calderón, the area was once home to farmlands and businesses and has even hosted visiting presidents. Extensive renovations were done prior to opening to restore the building back to its original shell. Some features remain, such as the original ceiling. Says Calderón: “Everything we do ties back to the history of the neighborhood.”
- The shop serves locally-roasted Brioso coffee
- Organic, kosher-certified Mountain Rose Herb tea.
- Canary Island-style specialties, like the Leche y Leche (Coffee and condensed milk combo that’s incredibly tasty.)
- Patrons can purchase coffee or tea for a few bucks, or a house-made pastry for less than $10.
- They also have a co-working area separated from the coffee shop by an open divider.
- The co-working space also houses a community health worker. Interested community members can apply to be considered for this paid position, which provides training and helps empower neighborhood members to be active in the health of the babies and families in the community.
Bottoms Up hopes to be a catalyst for Franklinton workforce development.
You can get a good cup of coffee at dozens of places in Columbus, but the social mission and community-driven purpose at Bottoms Up set it apart from the rest. So the next time you’re traveling down West Broad, stop by the coffee shop with the giant pear outside. You’ll be glad you did.