Kitti Murray, founder of the Refuge Coffee Co., launched a fundraising campaign to purchase the property where trucks for Refuge Coffee park in Clarkston.
Photo: CONTRIBUTED BY SEAN SHERIDAN PHOTOS
Photo: CONTRIBUTED BY SEAN SHERIDAN PHOTOS

Refuge Coffee Co. opening new location in Sweet Auburn neighborhood

A nonprofit coffee shop known for offering job training to refugees settled in Georgia is expanding with a second location.

Refuge Coffee Co., which started in Clarkston in 2014, is slated to open in Atlanta’s historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood, the first brick-and-mortar location for the coffee shop. 

The second location, set to open in January 2020, will be housed in the Daily World Building at 145 Auburn Ave., the long-time home to the country’s longest running African-American daily newspaper, the Atlanta Daily World.

Sweet Auburn, as both birthplace to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement, “reinforces Refuge Coffee Co.’s ethos of inclusivity and social justice, offering a meaningful connection between the “Welcoming Community” and the “Beloved Community”,” according to a press release.

Gene Kansas | Commercial Real Estate led a historic preservation of the property in 2014, garnering awards from organizations including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Atlanta Urban Design Commission. 

Starting in 2014, Kitti Murray, founder and CEO of Refuge Coffee Co., began to build the organization “on a promise of providing a safe, multi-ethnic space void of agenda, where refugees are not only employed, but welcomed “home” in the heart of Clarkston,” one of the country’s most diverse cities.”

In its first year of business, Refuge Coffee Co. welcomed more than 100,000 customers from 80 different countries.

“We often say that we do our work with the refugees, not for them. This means we are co-creators in the truest sense,” said Murray in a prepared statement. “We’re thrilled to be moving into Sweet Auburn, an area that has a vast history regarding social and civic justice, and the struggles so many people face in finding a sense of home within a broader community from which they may be marginalized.”

In addition to once being home to Atlanta Daily World starting in the 1930s, the building started as Virgil Coffee Company in 1918 and in the 1940s served as Club Poinciana, a jazz club that welcomed acts such as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman. In 1944, District V, Atlanta’s first African-American Girl Scout Troop, took up residence on the second floor.

“Coffee, culture, hospitality, advocacy, commerce, and an interest in freedom for all have long been a part of the DNA of this historic location and community,” said Gene Kansas, founder of Gene Kansas | Commercial Real Estate and civic, social and culturally-based shared workspace Constellations, down the street from the new Refuge site. 

From 12:30-2:30 p.m. Nov. 20th, Gene Kansas | Commercial Real Estate and Constellations will host a welcoming party  featuring international snack and drinks from a variety of Clarkston-based catering companies, several of which are refugee-led.

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