LIVING IN THE CITY: Percolating Black Empowerment

Khea Pollard serves low-income families and co-owns Sherman Heights coffee shop Cafe X: By Any Beans Necessary

“Living In the City” is the San Diego Sun‘s feature Q&A with downtown San Diego residents. It’s a way to get to know the city by meeting the people who live here. This is an ongoing series.

Name: Khea Pollard

Location: Middletown/Midtown

Personal deets: Native San Diegan, living in Midtown since January.

Streaming favorites: Don’t watch a ton of TV, but when I do, it’s all over the map. The Circle is a random favorite. I enjoy social experiment-type shows. Some “reality” TV. I enjoyed the Blood Brothers documentary about the life and legacy of Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali.

Reason for moving downtown: Proximity to everything exciting and fun. I live on a hill with a great view of Harbor Drive, and it’s near the coffee shop I own at the edge of downtown.

Khea Pollard at Cafe X.

Work life: I have two jobs.

  1. Director of San Diego for Every Child (SDec). It’s an initiative housed by Jewish Family Service of San Diego. I lead the SDec Guaranteed Income Project. It provides $500 payments for 24 months to low-income families in San Diego County (four ZIP Codes) with children 12-and-under. This provides direct assistance to families after the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlight the inefficiencies present in the current public benefits system.
  2. Co-owner and founder of Café X: By Any Beans Necessary, a cooperative coffee shop in Sherman Heights. I’ve been with the company since its inception in 2016. Our mission is to support generational wealth building in the Black community and other marginalized communities as a cooperative asset. Eventually, this shop will be wholly community-owned and operated by a strong table of leaders.

Origin story: I created the organization as a capstone project of the RISE San Diego Fellowship program in 2016. This became a mother-daughter owned venture in 2018 when my mom joined to help crystalize the vision. We intend to grow capable leaders, partially through the internship program we’ve established with the San Diego Workforce Partnership, Access Inc. and South Bay Community Services.

About the business: Interns learn all aspects of the coffee business—from bean to cup—and will gain the skills to start their own business or join the cooperative. We’re in a storefront space (in the middle of an art gallery) at 1835 Imperial Avenue. We call this the Creative Hub. We’ve been “soft open” since November 2021. Our grand opening was February 28, 2022. We host events ranging from political fundraisers to baby showers to Headwraps & Coffee meet-ups to game nights.

Mom-and-daughter Cafe X co-owners Cynthia Ajani and Khea Pollard.

Working from home: I wake up, take a moment to breathe, make a pour-over coffee, get in some at-home Pilates and make breakfast. Then, sit down to work at my desk.

Best part of your location: The view of the Harbor and the airplanes that come and go.

Worst part of your location: My building stairs. They’re kind of twisty and turn-y, and long.

Best aspect of living downtown: Close proximity to so many delicious restaurants and coffee spots, like Café X. Living on the edge of downtown is the best because you are close enough to the hustle but far enough for the quiet.

Worst aspect of living downtown: Being up close and personal to systemic failures like homelessness in very high numbers. It is truly inhumane for us to have so many unhoused neighbors. Adequate housing is a human right.

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Getting ready for the Sherman Heights grand opening.

Coffee shop: Café X: By Any Beans Necessary, obviously. Our décor is urban oasis, chic and comfortable. There are lots of lounge areas and a gorgeous outdoor space.

  • Signature drinks. Wildberry Tea-Lemonade is a best-seller. The Shabazz, named after Malcolm X (get it hot).
  • Food. The Chef Buddha Blasian Soul Food truck is parked in the greenspace out back. Their mac n’ cheese gets the soul food stamp of approval, and I always get their catfish.
  • Desserts. Bomb desserts are made by local vendor Sweet Treats by Thick. I highly recommend the original Peanut Butter Chew, Ooey Gooey Cookies, or the Peach Cobbler Cinnamon roll.

Lunch place: El Indio Mexican Restaurant. Authentic Mexican food and good service, which is super important to me. When I eat there, I sit outside.

Dinner spot: Underbelly for good, uncomplicated ramen. I enjoy both the food and the modern design.

Best bar/restaurants: King and Queen Cantina. Their décor is as flavorful as the food. Music is always blaring. I order a chamango margarita, a frozen tower of alcohol, a slushie with Mexican candy. Also, Davanti Enoteca. I adore their Focaccia Di Recco, a flatbread with soft cheese and honeycomb on the side.

Scenic and romantic Seaport Village. (Getty Images)

Must-see for visitors: Seaport Village. The walk and the water. It is very scenic and romantic.

Downtown safety: It’s about as safe as anywhere in the world.

Areas to avoid: Anywhere near Petco Park during baseball season.

Favorite memory: The MLK Parade down Harbor Drive. I used to walk that with University of San Diego back in the day.

Scooters: They’re kind of annoying. But, probably good for the environment so I can be down. SDSun


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