In January, Charlotte nonprofit Do Greater unveiled a coffee shop called CRTV Lab Coffee, located at the entrance of the organization’s workspace.
Do Greater partnered with Enderly Coffee to create the coffee shop. It serves plain coffee, espressos, and lattes, as well as chai and matcha beverages for non-coffee drinkers.
Each purchase at the coffee shop supports the organization’s continued efforts of providing middle and high school students with free access to educational and creative opportunities centered around the latest technologies.
Creativity meets coffee
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Do Greater’s workspace, called CRTV Lab, is located inside the basement of Shiloh Institutional Baptist Church and took a year and a half to build out.
CRTV Lab Coffee was not a part of the space’s original design, director of operations Candice Kelly, told QCity Metro, but there was no coffee shop within walking distance of the Camp Greene neighborhood.
“Public transportation isn’t always reliable for some folks, so we see as [this space as] being a way to get coffee [because] it’s never going away; it’s always a need,” Kelly said in an interview. “But more importantly, it’s a way for the community to have a space to come together, [and] we want the community to have a reason to come in [to the coffee shop because] everyone may not have a middle or high school student that they know or support.”
Kelly says that Do Greater is working on establishing a pipeline for students to get work experience as baristas or, as the nonprofit calls, them “coffee creatives.” As a way to nurture the creative abilities of the shop’s workers, Kelly said, coffee creatives can utilize the lab’s technologies for free.
“We are building out a program where not only do [students] get work experience, but they can also see behind the scenes, help us create a marketing campaign, help us look through the financials [and] help us reach out and partner with other businesses,” Kelly said.
Additionally, Kelly said, the organization is looking into selling pastries and may offer barista training classes in the near future.
Kelly considers the coffee shop to be a “hidden gem” that is growing in popularity. The shop has had local business owners stop by and ask about selling baked goods and non-alcoholic drinks in the shop, which Kelly says they are exploring.
CRTV Lab Coffee is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
About the creative lab
Building the CRTV Lab, a hub that provides school-aged youth with access to creative technologies, in the West End was intentional because there are few resources like it nearby.
“They have school where they go for traditional instruction, they have home and family spaces for recreation and support,” Kelly told QCity Metro.
“But there really aren’t as many third places for [high school and middle school] students anymore. Those are the ages where the students really have a lot going on [and] they have a lot of ambitions. And [when] that creative spirit isn’t nurtured, it is often dismissed,” she said.
The CRTV Lab has four creative studios that students can use: a podcast studio, a music studio, a video production studio and a product photography studio. The lab also has 3D printers and several meeting spaces where students can brainstorm their ideas.
The decision to build the lab inside of the church stems from Do Greater founder and CEO William McNeely’s roots in the Camp Greene neighborhood.
McNeely grew up in the church, and Kelly said his mother still attends the church’s services.
Despite its location, the nonprofit is entirely separate from Shiloh Institutional.
Kelly said that, like the church, the lab is created to be a gathering space for the community.
“We can introduce folks to the space, and they may be interested in coming back for us (CRTV Lab) and the [church’s] service,” she said.
The lab currently offers a number of free programs including Start Upward, an entrepreneurship program that teaches youth how to generate, test and launch business ideas; and Art of DJing, which teaches teens the fundamentals of using turntables.
Do Greater also offers free summer camps that allow students to explore various creative professions.
In partnership with nearby schools, the organization provides transportation for the students from school to the space as well.
“We’re looking at trying to grow this model across Charlotte [because] there are five additional corridors that still need support and there are still students that need a place to go,” Kelly said. “And so we are looking to expand the Creative Lab. If it makes sense for there to be that retail component [and] there’s a need in that community, we’re happy to expand the [coffee] shop as well.”
If you go
Where: 2400 Greenland Ave.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more info: https://dogreater.org