How an Ike and Tina Turner back-up singer became a lynchpin of a Downtown neighborhood
Shar Kanan holds the word "community" to its roots when she uses the oft-clichd term to describe E.P. Atelier, the coffee shop she owns with Diane Ingram at 609 S. 10th St.
"People commune here," Kanan said.
The E.P. stands for Elliot Park, the neighborhood the caf serves; "atelier" means "artists' quarter" in French.
"The whole vision we have is blending coffee, community and culture," Ingram said.
E.P. Atelier was born last October. After a rough winter, Kanan says the caf has become a nucleus in the middle of many neighborhood amenities - commerce, churches, food sources, housing - which she says are the elements of community.
The East Downtown Council (EDC,) an Elliot Park and Downtown East business association, meets there. Kanan is the organization's sole staff person.
Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc.'s (EPNI) Neighborhood Action Committee (NAC), which coordinates events such as National Night Out, safety and clean-up projects, and the community garden, holds meetings there as well. Kanan and Ingram are volunteers. Kanan was voted onto the EPNI board in May and serves as its vice president.
Kanan admits she's got a lot on her plate. "How many hats can you wear?" she asked. "They're all related. It' all about this neighborhood."
In early June, EDC and NAC met simultaneously, with Kanan shuttling between the two to prepare for the June 23 Security Collaborative meeting, hosted by Minneapolis Police Department Crime-Prevention Specialist Luther Krueger. The initiative will link security at current and coming high-rises, area businesses and institutions, such as Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), 701 Park Ave., with each other and with police.
The Minneapolis AIDS Project also holds meetings at Atelier, as do neighbors such as R.S. Eden house, a home and facility for those overcoming chemical dependency.
The food on the Atelier menu is made by Heart of the City, part of House of Charity, 510 S. 8th St. Atelier serves pastries, rolls, breads, sandwiches, salads and cookies.
Kanan said the caf caters to the Christians and Muslims in the neighborhood who do not drink. Atelier employs students from North Central University (NEC,) a nearby Assemblies of God school. NEC student and Atelier worker Nick Landry just graduated and will leave soon to pursue youth ministry, but Kanan said the college has already contacted her about other candidates to succeed Landry.
Kanan, a writer and former back-up singer for Ike and Tina Turner, didn't intend to open a coffee shop when she moved here from Los Angeles in 2002. Despite her background in business, Kanan called opening the caf "one of the hardest things I've ever done."
Although the women work as a team, Ingram calls Kanan "the visionary" for the caf.
"What's impressed me is she's involved in the community on every front," said Tom Hayes, director of public relations for HCMC and EDC's board president.
"She has made a real investment," Hayes aid. "She put that coffee shop at the center where the neighborhood comes together."
The caf will soon sit in the shadow of high-rise condos. Kanan thinks that development - even a Starbucks rumored across the street when Skyscape is built- will be good for Elliot Park. (Atelier serves coffee in Skyscape mugs, and the Skyscape sales office offers free coffee cards to potential buyers.)
E.P Atelier is open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. (7 p.m. on Sundays). Check out the full calendar of live music, open stage music and spoken word, astrology readings, "Tea and Chi" and, of course, community meetings, online at www.epatelier.com.