By Any Beans Necessary

Highland Park is getting a new bookstore, coffee shop, and restaurant this summer.

The Highland Park neighborhood is currently lacking community gathering spaces. That’s a problem that Mo Karnage, a well-known local activist and owner of a construction company, would like to fix. Their new venture, By Any Beans Necessary, a combination bookstore, coffee shop and restaurant, hopes to be a place where people can connect and socialize.

The menu will be inspired, in part, by the homey food served at church potlucks. Small plates of deviled eggs, ham biscuits, or pimento cheese would be right at home at any Southern Wednesday night church supper. As for dinner offerings, plans are for a rotating hot dish each evening, such as spaghetti, chili, or red beans and rice.

Breakfast, soups, salads, and sandwich offerings are also planned to go alongside coffee and espresso drinks, and a wide selection of looseleaf black and herbal teas.  On the sweeter side, coffee shop staples like banana bread and coffee cake will be sold, as will fellow Northside business Ruby Scoops’ ice cream.  All food offerings will rotate seasonally, with as many local ingredients they can source while keeping food affordable. Some items will be made to order, while others will be available in a grab and go food case.

Karnage hopes to launch the retail space in June, with the cafe arriving later this summer.

Karnage, who used to sneak out of the house as a teenager to cook with Food Not Bombs, is infusing their radically inclusive approach into this new venture.  In addition to catering to vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, and gluten-free folks, they plan a “pay it forward” option for anyone to purchase a meal for someone who can’t afford one. They also recently acquired 500 pounds of coffee beans from a neighboring thrift shop and plan to offer donation based, free if needed, drip coffee. By Any Beans will also be a sober spot, a godsend for those looking for a gathering place that doesn’t revolve around booze.

The response from neighbors has been positive, according to Karnage. “I’m very outgoing, and so I always talk to the neighbors. I want to bring resources to the neighborhood for people, support the people around you, and get to know them. And I’ve had a great response from people in the neighborhood … people are very excited. Because there’s not anywhere you can sit down in this neighborhood.”

And while Karnage is known for outspoken and at times provocative political stances, they promise the bookstore component won’t just be political books. “I’m not that bad of a business person,” they joked. While not shying away from radical, queer, and feminist titles, there will also be books on local history, books by and about people of color, and also mysteries and detective novels. “You have to have books for everybody. And quite frankly, in this day and age, I feel like if somebody picks up a book and reads it, then that is a success, regardless of the contents. Because it’s becoming less and less of a thing culturally.” The plan is for a 50-50 mix of new and used titles.

Karnage says the response from neighbors has been great so far, adding: “There’s not anywhere you can sit down in this neighborhood.”

The space itself is large, 1,750 square feet, with a main room and a smaller, side room Karnage plans to set aside for folks who need a small gathering space. They plan to also use the large space to offer retail products from local businesses on consignment.

Karnage hopes to launch the retail side in June, with the cafe coming online later this summer. Summing up the philosophy of their new venture, “It’s important that there are spaces that are affordable and accessible and weird. We’re southern, and we’re quirky, and I think that holding on to the things that make Richmond interesting … is important,” says Karnage.

 

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