When Joe Keenan moved to Charlotte in 2016, he would go to local coffee shops to meet new people, making connections with everyone from local business owners to the coffee shop baristas. 

“I wasn’t going just to get a cup of coffee. I was going to vibe and find some inspiration,” the 31-year-old Spartanburg, South Carolina, native told QCity Metro.

He noticed a lack of Black coffee shop owners in Charlotte and wanted to start his own.

On Sunday, Keenan hosted a soft opening for “Evoke Coffee,” a brick-and-mortar coffee shop at CLT Hub (750 West Morehead St.).

Keenan’s journey as a coffee shop owner started from a mobile service he and a friend created in 2019. The two had bought a horse trailer and traveled throughout Charlotte selling coffee pouches.

Despite some business successes, creative differences led the duo to shut down their operation in the summer of 2021, and Keenan was reluctant to start another part-time gig, notwithstanding requests from some of his former customers.

Keenan said he was inspired by his mother to try.

“I would give her a bunch of reasons why I wasn’t going to do it, but she just kept pushing me to do it,” he said.

In October, his mother died from Covid-19 and liver disease.

That same month, Keenan relaunched his mobile coffee service under the new name, Evoke Coffee, with a mission to “evoke positivity in every cup.”

Joe Keenan serving coffee at his soft opening. Photo courtesy of Joe Keenan

He started serving at events including brunches, corporate functions and private parties. Positive feedback, he said, “gave me even more courage to keep going and keep doing this.”

Keenan now works alone, but he said he wants to start a paid mentorship program for young men to gain knowledge and work experience. He wants his shop to be a space that other Black business owners and creatives can use for events and workshops.

Keenan said he wants his customers to make positive connections, just as he did when he moved to Charlotte.

“I’m really big on connections, and I have made a lot of connections from getting coffee, so I just want to do the same for others,” he said.

Customers can find Evoke Coffee’s weekly schedule on the shop’s Instagram page.


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