New nonprofit coffee shop an experiment in entrepreneurship

In a city that has nonprofit restaurants, clothing shops, catering services and even a free furniture store, a full service nonprofit coffee shop was conspicuously absent.

The Third Place on Fifth Street recently opened to fill that gap, specializing in imported African, Central American and South American coffee beans that are locally roasted (by Enderly Coffee) and brewed “pour-over” style, one personalized cup at a time.

But the shop is an experiment that goes beyond raising money for any one cause. Three nonprofits are joining forces to make it work, with a mission to pull people from a struggling Enderly Park neighborhood and put them in the sink-or-swim position of running a business.

Failure of nonprofit businesses is a very real prospect, with the best-known example being the now-shuttered Second Helping restaurant on Central Avenue.

QC Family Tree, Friendship Trays and Caldwell Presbyterian Church are backing The Third Place, with each supplying a key element needed to make it work: staffing, food and location.

Single mom Chardonai Scogins is the manager and an alumnus of QC Family Tree, a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of people in west Charlotte’s Enderly Park area.

Scogins imagines a lot of possibilities if the shop succeeds, but at the top of the list is a better future for her 1-year-old son, Amaree. He’s often at the shop with her. “What I hope is that this will be my coffee shop one day,” she says. “Running a business definitely makes you feel more connected to the community.”

Her ambition is clear as she talks about trying to attract patrons from nearby Central Piedmont Community College, King’s College and Elizabeth Traditional Elementary, which is directly across the street.

Pastor John Cleghorn of Caldwell Presbyterian Church says his congregation is offering the space with no strings attached and no intent of it being a tool for preaching. His hope is that the coffee shop will become a gathering place for community affairs and meetings.

Cleghorn says the idea for the shop was born 18 months ago through conversations with nearby Novant Health hospital, which was seeking a place to bring families who had a relative dealing with long-term hospital stays.

“They (Novant) wanted some place other than a hospital cafeteria, some place comforting and quiet,” Cleghorn says. “No sermons, no Bible lessons, just hospitality that cuts across cultures. That’s what this coffee shop is about.”

The Third Place at 1609 E. Fifth St. is open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. weekdays.