Veterans dream big with first coffee shop and plans for a second one

Opening a coffee shop during a pandemic wasn’t the best time to jump into an entrepreneurial endeavor. Even though this hurdle was deemed to be a difficult jump, Crystal Grace and her business partner, Taren Kinebrew, handled the opening of Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse in early 2020, located in Evanston, with grace and grit.

Grace, a U.S. military veteran, and Kinebrew, an Army National Guard veteran, joined forces to create an inviting space to refuel, hang out with friends, and get some work done. They are now in their element as they grind espresso beans, take latte orders and call out the names that they hand write on each cup.

Grace thought that it was important to open this venture in the neighborhood that she was raised. “I wanted to see children who looked like me and to see an entrepreneur who looked like me,” she says. “At Cream + Sugar, we only offer plant-based options, outside of coffee that is. We thought that it was risky to do this but we made sure that we make food that they would love.”
In a difficult retail environment for most small businesses, there are estimated to be more than 12 million businesses. Women-owned businesses in the United States pack a powerful economic footprint by employing over 10.1 million workers. Throughout the pandemic, women-owned businesses bore the brunt of the burden, leaving the workforce and closing businesses at record rates.
However, since then, women are driving the economic recovery. And that trend is not lost here in Cincinnati, especially in a city that is turning the corner in its national small business reputation. 

According to an article by the Miami Herald earlier this year, Cincinnati has over 1,000 Black-owned businesses throughout several industries, including restaurants, clothing stores, and hair salons. As of 2020, the financial impact of these businesses reached over $2.1 billion and provided jobs for over 6,000 people.

Grace turned to entrepreneurship because she recognized that business ownership offered greater financial stability, flexibility, and opportunities for professional and personal growth. Cream + Sugar plans to open its second location at 1237 California Avenue in Bond Hill in February 2024.

“We plan to have a full kitchen in the new location,” says Grace. “There, with the full kitchen, we can offer cooking classes and meeting spaces for the community. I wanted to make sure that these were added to the new space because I wanted to dream big. When I was young, I wasn’t taught how to dream big.” 

You can learn more about entrepreneurs Crystal Grace and Taren Kinebrew in stories from the Soapbox archive.
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Read more articles by Kareem A. Simpson.

Raised in the inner city of Covington, Kentucky, Kareem Simpson is an author, innovator, community enthusiast, military veteran, serial entrepreneur, foodie and lover of all things creative.