One of the newest coffee spots in metro New Orleans is called The Pot Called Kettle (@thepotcalledkettle). Yet unlike some coffee shops that seek to maximize profit, The Pot Called Kettle is seeking to maximize its reach, offering affordable coffees to the historically underserved surrounding community.
“I’ve been passionate about coffee my entire life,” The Pot Called Kettle Owner Shonell Dillon recently told DCN. “And I’ve been in this community for more than 45 years, so I thought, ‘Why not make the same coffee I’d seen others sell, but instead offer it at a lower cost for those who can’t afford traditional prices?’”
The business is located inside Viola’s Restaurant and Gospel House, a longstanding diner owned by Dillon’s family in Metairie, Jefferson Parish, that has suffered from numerous bouts of hurricane damage. With the restaurant opening only three days a week for lunch and dinner, Dillon decided to transform it in off hours into an intensely community-driven coffee space.
Inside, she’s serving a core arabica blend featuring beans from Ethiopia for a Bunn-brewed drip option, alongside espresso-based drinks, cold brews, pressed juices, smoothies and infused water. A selection of pastries, parfait, croissants and breakfast muffins accompany the drinks menu.
“People love to come sit down and talk to me, even before they know that I’m a social worker,” Dillon said. “I’m always kind, and I think that welcomes people to open up and share what’s on their mind. Then they often come back and thank me for giving them advice or just listening to what they had to say… I’m building lifetime customers that way.”
Dillon recently reached out to DCN to share the story of her new venture, which she hopes to build through continued renovations and a commitment to offering something that appeals to anyone who might walk through the door.
Said Dillon, “I really love the coffee business, and only hope it loves me back.”
We asked Dillon more about her long-running passion for coffee in our ongoing Three Questions series. (Note: Answers may have been shortened for clarity.)
What about coffee excites you most?
I equate coffee with being alive. You know, it’s almost like a turn on button for me; it wakes me up and keeps me going. I often joke that it can make or break your day. I remember growing up and watching my parents make coffee inside their restaurant. My family always took us on different vacations and each time we went to a new place, I learned about a new type of coffee, and it was over the years that I realized how great coffee is and how much other people needed to know it too.
I also think about when I wanted to name the shop. I used to hear my family say a lot, “ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black” meaning one person can’t talk about the other. I played around with it at first and came up with “The Pot Called Kettle” because I want everyone to feel welcome, know that we aren’t that different from one another and try to enjoy some good coffee along the way.
What about coffee troubles you most?
There are so many benefits to coffee, but so little education on it that it troubles me, but also motivates me because I want the community to be able to experience that and learn something more than what they see on a daily basis. I always say you can’t say you don’t like something if you haven’t tried it.
What would you be doing if it weren’t for coffee?
I’ve been in social work for more than 20 years, but if I didn’t have that or the coffee shop, I would be saving the world in some capacity.
No matter what type of career I’m in, I just have a heart to help people. That’s a major reason I opened The Pot Called Kettle because I saw that this underserved community that I’m in just didn’t have the education about coffee or the means to try new things, and I want to change that.
Is there someone in the coffee industry who inspires you? Nominate that person for a Three Questions feature here.
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Shavantay Minnis is a writer based in sunny South Florida. She enjoys nature, giving back to the community and her sugar with a side of coffee.