As we wrap up our diversity series here at Urban MJ, this week’s blog post is all about one of Downtown Durham’s most iconic restaurants, Beyu Caffe, started by passionate thought leader in the African American community, Dorian Bolden. Downtown Durham is one of our favorite areas to explore and when on W Main St., the Jazzy Shrimp and Grits just can’t be turned down. Over the past ten years, Beyu has truly evolved to fit the needs of the community. From opening a sister cafe on Duke’s campus to now starting their catering program, Beyu has tons to offer and has proved to be a Durham staple. Best part of it all–locally owned by a Durham native. Plus, coffee.
Beyu Caffe (pronounced be-you) was founded in 2009 by Duke University graduate, Dorian Bolden, to be the ultimate community gathering place where everyone could “be you”. The name and idea stems from Dorian’s lifelong experiences in various social and cultural settings whereby he believes that we all have more in common than we do differences. Bolden wanted a place in Bull City accepting of all, regardless of the color of your skin or the gender you identify with. Post his studies at Duke, Bolden moved to NYC and worked on Wall Street. Though he knew he had a stable job, he started asking himself the same question we all come to, “What do I really want to do with my life?” The answer was simple, to do something he was passionate about. Though most of us usually stay in the comfort zone and don’t chase the crazy sounding dream, Bolden went for it. He learned the ins and outs of coffee and moved back to his old stomping grounds of Durham.
After lots of thinking and almost giving up on the idea, Bolden finally decided to give it his all. It all started in 2008, with friends and community members helping Dorian develop Beyu Caffe’s signature coffee blend. Beyu’s signature coffee blend is named Heart & Soul because one of the participants noted that the coffee was smooth and delicious that it touched her very heart and soul. Ten years later the Heart & Soul Blend remains popular and a favorite in the community. In December 2009, Beyu Caffe opened its doors to the public. Then, what started as just a coffee cafe, began garnering regional recognition as a music powerhouse venue. Local performers were constantly filling the Beyu space with food for the ears and music for the soul. Dining at Beyu became more than just dinner, it became an entire experience.
Downtown Durham has seen a long history of greatly successful African American owned businesses and we are so happy to see Beyu thriving over the past decade. I think part of what has made Beyu so successful is Bolden’s passion for diversity in the workforce. Bolden told the Herald Sun in recent years that, “To ensure an equitable mix, you have to pay attention to your hiring process, he said — adding that he doesn’t look at criminal records in that process, and he prioritizes an even male-to-female ratio as well as hiring transgender employees”. Bolden has hosted many cultural and political events in his restaurant as well; daring to be bold and risking butting heads with clients who might have different beliefs. Bolden’s bold moves have led to a thriving business and new endeavors. Beyu’s success is a great explanation on Durham’s history and one of the reasons it is so successful…diversity thrives here and in business also.
For years, Beyu was filled with live music, great food, and coffee. As I mentioned before, what is unique about Beyu is the way they change as their community does. Beyu knows how to pivot and to do it with great success. At the beginning of this year, Beyu Caffe made the difficult decision to say good-bye to its live music operation in order to focus on its coffee and restaurant operations, and concentrate on delivering delicious food and coffee. Though the live music is no longer a part of Beyu, that heart and soul is there and stronger than ever. You can feel Bolden’s passion for community when you walk through the doors. There is a space for all at Beyu Caffe.
The hardwork and difficult changes to make have definitely paid off. Downtown Durham is growing and so are Beyu’s offerings. They are now selling their signature blend by the bag in store and have a great catering service for events small and large. It’s not everyday you find a catering service that can bring shrimp and grits to your work meeting. If you have yet to enjoy Beyu Caffe, it is a must try. The space is warm and welcoming and you’re sure to never leave without a smile on your face.They use many local ingredients in their dishes as well. From breakfast for someone on the go, or coffee and tables for coworking, there is something for everyone.
Photography sourced from https://beyucaffe.com/