Coffee shop and art space Dear Mama Coffee will open as one of the first retail tenants at Columbia’s Manhattanville campus on 130th Street and Broadway in September. The coffee shop has another location in East Harlem, which opened in the summer of 2016.
Dear Mama Coffee will occupy a 4,700-square-foot space in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, which first opened its doors last spring.
Zachary Sharaga, CEO and founder of Dear Mama Coffee, cited his experience growing up in the Bronx as what drew him to Harlem and Manhattanville.
“[I was] seeing this thing being built and seeing it in the media … and as soon as I knew what project it was, I wanted to be a part of it,” Sharaga said. “I wanted to put my stamp on the uptown community and on the University, and Columbia really supports local businesses.”
Like the East Harlem location, it will serve as a coffee shop and restaurant, but Sharaga also hopes to expand into the Columbia community with drawing and coffee-making classes, music programming, and a happy hour.
The shop will use its space to display art from community members, just as its East Harlem location does.
“A lot of people living in East Harlem and uptown in the Bronx don’t really have a place to display their [art]work,” Sharaga said. “We have a whole lot of space for people to hang their work. We want to connect dynamic people.”
Sharaga recruits artists to display their work mainly by word of mouth, especially ones from the surrounding neighborhood, such as Harlem-based artist Sinclair Korte, whose work is currently on display at the first Dear Mama Coffee. At the Manhattanville location, Sharaga hopes to collaborate with students to provide a platform for their works as well.
The Jerome L. Greene Science Center’s all-glass architecture presents a departure from the original Dear Mama Coffee’s more conventional coffee shop interior, but Sharaga said that Dear Mama Coffee will have “a few tricks up [its] sleeve.”
“We’re finding a technological solution to the problems that the space presents,” Sharaga said. “There’s a bigger platform to [present art] there, and it just so happens to be adjacent to the Lenfest Center, which is great for art.”
Sharaga also expressed an interest in expanding Dear Mama Coffee’s presence in the entertainment community beyond visual arts.
“We have big plans to do music programming. There will be a wide open door for collaboration,” Sharaga said. “There will be events like Coffee in Harlem for our evening programming, and we’re planning a full alcohol program as well.”
As for its menu, Dear Mama Coffee will retain its identity as a New York-inspired coffee shop, sourcing ingredients from local farms and putting a unique spin on classic New York foods such as lox croissants; it will also have a rotating dinner menu. Sharaga said that the additional space will allow Dear Mama Coffee to have a “more robust” menu than its East Harlem location, as well as a stronger focus on grab-and-go foods for students on their way to class.
Above all, Sharaga reiterated Dear Mama Coffee’s excitement to integrate itself into the Columbia community, as well as his dedication to Dear Mama Coffee’s core mission.
“Art is part of our identity,” Sharaga said. “Synergy is the name of the game, and we’re absolutely excited to start collaborating with the student community.”