Justin McMillan greeted customers with a smile at the Boogie Down Grind on Hunts Point Ave. on a recent Friday while steaming milk into a cup of coffee. After working in cafés in other neighborhoods, barista and creative director McMillan finds himself right at home serving his neighbors.
The Boogie Down Grind, which is locally owned and sourced, has menu options ranging from oatmeal to the “Big Pun Panini” sandwich, all for prices on par with Dunkin’ Donuts.
McMillan, a longtime Hunts Point resident, says that the café provides him the freedom to put his ideas into practice. “It’s more than just a coffee shop, you know? Working here is not only beneficial for me but the community as a whole. The customers know who I am and I know who they are. It allows for trust to be made.”
After conducting a community survey on the needs of the neighborhood, owner Majora Carter and her husband James Chase opened their café at 866 Hunts Point Ave. The owners of the Grind say their main goal is to hire locally.
“Why can’t we build locally, right here?” said Carter. “Talent is being lost because we are not building communities they want to stay in. When we lose our talent it goes to someone else’s community.”
With portrait paintings and handcrafted art and jewelry by local artists across its brick walls, the café serves as an open space with a relaxing atmosphere that provides customers a chance to connect with locals outside of their busy lives.
Annie Gomez, 30, a frequent customer of the Grind, said she treasures having a place to sit down and chat.
“I am not much of a social person, but coming here makes me meet people and I end up talking to them just over a cup of coffee,” she said.
With signs behind the counter that read “Welcome to your café,” “Lets Boogie!” and “Team Work Makes A Dream Work,” Carter says she wants to promote the idea of Hunts Point residents opening their own local businesses.
Grind barista Risa Cruz said that putting a smile on customer’s faces makes her day.
“The people in the area are just great and I love being able to know them all,” she said.