Meet The Man Behind Harrisburg, PA's First Black-Owned Cafe And Bookshop

Meet The Man Behind Harrisburg, PA's First Black-Owned Cafe And Bookshop
Photo Credit: Photo by Antwan Little - Just A Little Photography

PUBLISHED: Nov 20, 2020 6:24 AM

When Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native Stefan Hawkins saw there was a void in Black-owned coffee shops and vegan restaurants in his community, he stepped up to the plate. Now, he not only has one business on a block that was heavily gentrified, but he is in the process of opening a second.

Hawkins worked various jobs throughout his teens and early twenties. Somewhere along the way he transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle and he was also bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.

“I started a job with Pepsi Co., and realized that I wanted to go back to school to enhance my skills so that I could move up in the company,” Hawkins told Travel Noire. “I loved my job and wanted to be able to move into higher positions.”

Courtesy of Good Brotha’s

After meeting his girlfriend turned fiancé, Laquana Barber, the couple spent lots of time traveling together. In those travels they were able to try vegan restaurants all over, but it was something about Slutty Vegan’s Pinky Cole’s story that really inspired him.

“Just seeing the magic she created and all of her accomplishments, I knew that I could create something like that for Harrisburg.”

Hawkins told his fiancé that he was setting his intentions on opening a vegan restaurant in their community, and as the supportive partner that she is, she knew he could do it.

Courtesy of Good Brotha’s

It all started with the sauce, because Hawkins knew that great sauces could help him stand out. In the middle of the night, he came up with what is now known as “slap sauce,” a nod to a phrase used by people across the Harrisburg and Philly area.

He and his fiancé played around with a burger recipe and then literally began selling the plates from their home.

“Before we knew it, word had spread beyond Harrisburg, and people from other cities were wanting to come try the Slap Burger,” he said. “Of course, everyone wasn’t rocking with the idea to buy food our of our house, so I ended up leasing a space that would become House of Vegans.”

Photo by: Antwan Little – Just A Little Photography

House of Vegans is the first Black-owned vegan spot in Harrisburg. The buzz was so big that on opening day, Hawkins was met with a line wrapped around the block.

Right after the George Floyd protests began and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hawkins was inspired to bring even more Black-owned businesses back into the community.

With the success of the vegan restaurant, he was able to generate enough income to begin working on his second spot. As fate would have it, a local bakery literally across the street from House of Vegans was closing. The owners suggested that Hawkins take over the space in some way.

Photo by: Antwan Little – Just A Little Photography

“I didn’t expect to bring my second spot so soon. But now I’m bringing the first Black-owned coffee shop to the city.”

Good Brotha’s Book Cafe is inspired by Hawkins and two friends’ book club, also under the same name. He will feature Black authors and literary works that are important to Black culture.

Hawkins has also started his own coffee brand, Fifth Acres Coffee, that will be used and sold in the shop, too.

“I believe that representation matters, and having a place for Black authors to feature their work is important to me,” Hawkins explained.

Photo courtesy of Good Brotha’s

Good Brotha’s is set to open very soon. He is waiting for final inspections from city officials, but otherwise the business is ready to open to the community.

To learn more about House of Vegans, you can visit www.houseofveganscfc.com. To learn more about Good Brotha’s Book Cafe and to keep up with its opening, you can visit check the Instagram page: @goodbrothabookcafe.

Related: This Family Will Open Pennsylvania’s First Wholly Black-Owned Brewery