Marc Lamont Hill, a noted author, social commentator and professor, has made a foray into entrepreneurship by opening a new coffee shop and bookstore in Philadelphia. According to the Philly Tribune, his new shop, Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, officially opens today Monday, Nov 27 in the city’s Germantown section. The store serves up LaColombe coffee, coffee drinks, gourmet teas and hot chocolate.
The new shop is named after his late uncle and World War II veteran, Bobbie Lee Hill. Marc remembers visiting his uncle in Philadelphia as a child and being exposed to culture and books by African American authors and Black Enterprise and Jet magazines.
“His house was the first place I went where I heard a critical analysis of the world,” Hill says. “It was the first place that kind of opened up to me the idea of literacy being an expression of who we are as black people.”
Hill also credits black-owned bookstores with helping to further his educational horizons.
“Black bookstores were where I developed a sense of identity,” said Hill. “It’s where I discovered the world. It’s where I got a different curriculum than what school gave me. So for me, I thought it was important to pay that forward and to build something for the community in the same vein. My life is better because I had those places and I want to create them for the next generation.”
Hill invested approximately $250,000 into bringing the vision for his business venture to fruition. Located at 5445 Germantown Ave., Hill had to turn what was formerly a daycare center into a space suitable for his needs. The shop offers a comfortable vibe with its maroon walls, plaid curtains, modern seating and well-curated shelves of books.
The shop, which is located in a predominantly black neighborhood, will serve so much more than coffee.
For Hill, there is a synergy between coffee and books.
“Coffee is a booming industry even if books are tougher,” he explained. “I developed a business model that presumes that Black people do read, that Black people will support a Black business but also that is tapped into a booming coffee market. Coffee is another thing that brings people together.”
Hill plans to host free author readings, film screenings and youth poetry slams at an event space located next to the shop that can accommodate 75 people.
The first author reading event will be held Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. featuring Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the author of “Never Caught: Ona Judge, The Washingtons’ and the Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave.”
The shop will be open Monday to Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.