Hidden Gems of CLT: Community Matters Cafe

Watch a new episode of Hidden Gems of Charlotte with Alexandra Elich each Thursday on WCCB News Rising.

CHARLOTTE, NC. — WCCB Charlotte’s Alexandra Elich visits the Community Matters Cafe on this week’s Hidden Gems of CLT.

The aesthetic of the Community Matters Cafe tells a story. A mix of the old and the new. From the brick to the flooring and windows.

“The old and the new. The broken in the battered, right. That’s what walks through our doors, and we give them the opportunity for restoration,” says COO Ed Price.

The old spindle factory built in 1918 is not only a cafe and restaurant on West 1st Street; it’s a Charlotte Rescue Mission life skills program for those struggling with addiction or alcoholism, says Price. With artisan coffees and uniquely crafted high-end menu items.

“The concept was we could’ve built this as the Charlotte Rescue Mission and provided a decent cup of coffee and a reasonable grilled cheese sandwich, but it wouldn’t cause you to come back again, and it also wouldn’t cause the students, we call them graduates from the rescue mission, students it wouldn’t cause them to think that they were involved in something that was amazing or special.”

The Community Matters Cafe is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and all their profit goes back in the program. Employees have completed the four-month program with classes and therapy at the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Then they can choose the cafe program. The participants aren’t paid a salary, but the rescue mission gives them a weekly stipend, housing, clothing, medical assistance, and transportation.

“We had one of our graduates of the café program saId to us; I forgot how to behave because I got so far down the road of addiction and alcoholism.”

The idea for the cafe started years ago when the building was being used as a warehouse.

“In one season, we had an employee who said, boy, the side of town is really starting to transform. Wouldn’t it be a great coffee shop or restaurant that we could run ourselves, and that was where the idea was parked probably seven or eight years ago.”

The idea came to life in 2019 when they opened.

Price says one of the greatest gifts when graduates come back for a cup of coffee or bring their friends and family.

“This is more than just a coffee shop. This is more than just a place we can get a decent sandwich or salad meal. There’s a transformation happening here at every level.”