Friends bringing Portrait Coffee cafe, roastery to West End this fall

The Portrait Coffee team.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The Portrait Coffee team.

Aaron Fender has worked in the coffee industry for nearly 10 years, but it wasn’t until recently that he decided, along with some friends, to launch his own caffeniated venture.

“I’ve seen every touch point of specialty coffee companies,” Fender said. “We had a desire for representation in the industry.”

Fender and his wife, Erin, partnered with John and Shawndra Onwuchekwa, Marcus Hollinger and Khalid Smith to launch a Kickstarter at the end of last year with an initial goal of raising $25,000 to launch Portrait Coffee, a cafe and roastery at 1065 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW in the West End neighborhood. The team ended up raising more than $10,000 over their goal to launch the business.

The longtime friends see representation as an important part of Black-owned Portrait, which is slated to open this fall, Eater Atlanta first reported.

“Most people don’t know that coffee was originally discovered by Africans,” Fender said. “In a lot of ways, we’ve been Photoshopped out of the picture. There was the impetus for Portrait to reimagine the picture that comes to people’s minds when it comes to specialty coffee.”

The timing for opening poses some challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fender said, but in some ways “it’s been a blessing in disguise,” providing an opportunity to rethink what a place like Portrait can provide for the West End community and beyond.

Fender said he and his partners, who all live in the neighborhood, never considered any other area in which to plant their business roots.

“My wife grew up in the West End, and I got to learn the history through her,” he said. “We only wanted to be in this neighborhood. There’s such a history of Black excellence here.”

The business is already offering its coffee to the public via sales on its website, as well as Portrait merch including “Pouring a New Narrative” shirts and totes. Also available is a coffee delivery club, with weekly, biweekly and monthly deliveries of 12 oz. bags of Portrait-roasted coffee.

The cafe, which will be on the top floor of the building with the roastery in the basement, will likely start out offering patio and to-go service only, eventually allowing customers to drink inside the 35-seat space. Drink options will include traditional coffee drinks and teas. as well as specialty beverages including the Aunt Viv, a brown sugar and cardamom latte. The drink was served during a Portrait pop-up at Old Fourth Ward coffee shop Chrome Yellow that raised money for Peace Preparatory Academy.

Also expect to see light bites for breakfast and lunch including breakfast sandwiches, paninis and toasts.

Ultimately, Fender said, a big goal of the business is to help bring continued positive attention to the West End.

“We want to continue the legacy, and shine a light on the incredible things happening in the community.”

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