This partnership will open the door for other Black, minority, and women owned businesses to work with the museum.
By Jason Lewis
South LA Cafe continues to expand as they have obtained a 10-year contract with the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC). The Black-owned coffee shop in South Los Angeles has created the entity South LA Cafe (SLAC) Hospitality, and they are the museum’s new food, beverage, and hospitality provider.
The museum has a focus on local small businesses, which gave SLAC an opportunity to to submit a bid. But as South LA Cafe co-owner Celia Ward-Wallace put it, they were David in the David vs. Goliath story.
“We went through a highly rigorous process of competing with some of the largest corporations that handle restaurant and hospitality contracts throughout the nation and even beyond,” she said. “The museum was very committed to wanting to focus on a hyper-local minority and woman owned business. We entered into the competition as the only local company. We came with an amazing proposal about all of our local South L.A. focus, minority-owned business focus network of restauranteurs and chefs, and local vendors that we would bring to the museum to elevate the museums goals.”
South LA Cafe opened in 2019 on Western Avenue, one block north of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Since then they have opened a location at Kaiser Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Medical Center. By creating SLAC, they not only expand their own business, they are now in a position to open the door for other Black-owned businesses.
“It means that South LA Cafe has expanded it’s organization to now build a restaurant and hospitality management wing to our company that will be working with cultural institutions to be the overarching management company,” Celia said. “We are contracted with the museum for the next ten years to manage anything to do with food and beverage. We will do our own vetting process to determine who are the best vendors to bring in for all of the various opportunities.”
“We are making history in the middle of Black History Month,” said South LA Cafe co-owner Joe Ward-Wallace. “This is a rare opportunity. Because it’s us, and our community will get a lot of this. They’re getting our folks.”
The first vendor that SLAC has brought into the museum is Black-owned Post & Beam, which is located at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Chef/co-owner John Cleveland and co-owner Roni Cleveland will operate the museum’s restaurant under a brand new casual concept, with name, menus and other details to be announced closer to opening. Post & Beam is a family-owned, award-winning eatery and a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for Best Restaurant in 2022. The restaurant at NHMLAC will feature family-friendly, sustainably-sourced offerings that reflect Post & Beam’s cuisine, while meeting various dietary needs and choices.
“At SLAC we have a motto: 'everything we do is through partnership,’” Joe said. “The collaboration with NHMLAC is not only an embodiment of that, but also sets a new standard in the industry. The museum has doubled down on its commitment to the community and local small businesses, and choosing to partner with us as a cornerstone of their guest experience and brand is a tremendous honor. This opportunity has provided our company with the rare chance to compete in this space and evolve our company. We are proud to be partners with a like-minded institution to help grow our business and mission.”
New legislation and funding from the Los Angeles County that focuses on hyper-local and minority small businesses will create business opportunities for local entrepreneurs.
“NHMLAC's transformational partnership with South LA Cafe Hospitality to provide food, beverage and catering services paves the way for more small, locally-owned businesses of color to work with the County in serving our communities” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, Second District. “This partnership brings the expertise and unique flavor of South LA Cafe to residents and visitors from around the world and exemplifies the powerful impact that can be made when we collaborate with local entrepreneurs that are shaping the culture and future of Los Angeles.”