Jacqueline Smith had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but opening a business didn’t seem to be in the cards for her. When she moved to North Carolina, her original plan was to close on a house. However, the plan changed when she got the opportunity to rent a commercial space in Brevard Court instead.
There, she opened a coffee shop called My Story Cafe.
Smith said the space “fell into her lap” after the previous owner fell on hard times due to the pandemic.
Before Smith took over, the space housed a shop called Tea Fusion that sold boba tea, a beverage made with tapioca pearls. And although Smith’s true passion was coffee, she continued to sell boba tea in order to connect with the prior establishment’s patrons.
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The boba tea and fresh drinks are enticing to passersby.
Another thing Smith said has drawn customers in is the Trinidadian flag in the cafe’s logo. When asked how many fellow Trinidadian entrepreneurs she knows of in Charlotte, Smith said she “could probably count them on one hand.”
Since opening in October last year, Smith already has a few regulars in her cafe and a steady stream of new faces wanting to know more about her. She says they want to know her “story.”
Despite the name of her business, Smith wants the cafe to be about more than just her.
Smith said she wants My Story Cafe to be where people can find tranquility as well as a cup of coffee. And she wants to use those two things to get to know them.
Smith says she is as interested in hearing her customers’ stories as she is in having a space where they can forge them. “The idea is for people to come and create their own story,” Smith said.
The “story” theme of the cafe can also be seen just below Smith’s display of muffins and pastries, where there is a shelf of books. The books are additions that customers have contributed over time. She calls it the “cafe library.”
“I will not be behind that [counter].” Smith says she plans to “come out” into the space to have conversations “with any and everybody.”
5 fast questions
What made you move to the states?
I know we all talk about the American dream. For me, it was not about that. I had a pretty good life in Trinidad; I have no complaints about that. Most of my family were already in the U.S. It was just the next step after graduating from school.
Did you always want to open your business in Uptown Charlotte?
Definitely not; I was considering Harrisburg. I didn’t think that it was going to be possible to be able to come to the city because it was too expensive. For this to drop in my lap is truly a dream come true.
What has business been like since opening?
Very busy. It was still the end of the summer, so there was a lot of hype and excitement.
Now, it’s died down. It’s quiet. January is a slow month, and that’s fine because it gives me a chance to regroup. When I bought this, it was another business. Now it’s time to put my stamp on it.
How has your family reacted?
My youngest sister took my mom back to Trinidad. When I told her I opened a cafe, she said, “Oh, so you big time?”
My oldest sister came in for the very first day. My brother came from Canada. It took everybody by storm. “Oh, my god. One of us did this.”
Did you ever have hesitation?
I did find myself saying, “What have you done?” But I said, “You know what, Jacqueline, you’re in it. And you know you. You will find a way somehow. This is going to be on the map.”
It’s drawing a lot of attention, slowly but surely.
I would like, at some point, to [be able to] say not just My Story Cafe, but My Story Uptown, My Story Harrisburg, My Story Matthews. Wherever the story takes me, the next step will look like opening up another location.