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‘Making you feel at home’: Neighborhood Coffee provides training, warmth to refugees

Logan Thompson moved to Charlotte in 2013 — from — you guessed it — Ohio. In 2017, Nathalie Indenge moved to Charlotte from a bit further away — the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These days, the two craft cappuccinos, lattes, and Thai teas alongside one another at Neighborhood Coffee Roasters in east Charlotte.

Neighborhood Coffee is housed in the lobby of Project 658, a nonprofit dedicated to serving Charlotte’s international and refugee communities. Given Project 658’s full calendar of citizenship, ESL and job training programs, Neighborhood Coffee is often buzzing with people and excitement — a community of friends from all over the world.

Thompson opened Neighborhood Coffee — branded NBHD — in January 2023, yet it was a longtime dream before coming to fruition. “Back in 2017, I wanted to start a coffee shop as a way to provide job training and employment to refugees,” Thompson told CharlotteFive. “But we ended up starting a screen printing shop instead, Imago 658 Print Shop.”

As the print shop’s team grew, Thompson regained capacity and directed his attention back to coffee. “I love coffee and how, like our refugee friends, it’s from all over the world,” Thompson said. “I wanted to create a space where people can hang out, work, and meet people. We’ve created a neighborhood atmosphere, which is exactly why we named it Neighborhood Coffee.”

Neighborhood vibes

As cafe manager, Indenge serves as the face of Neighborhood Coffee. “When Logan approached me about a job, I was terrified,” Indenge told CharlotteFive. “My English was not good, and I was nervous about serving customers.”

On a busy Thursday morning, however, any such nervousness is well hidden as Indenge chats with customers and prepares drinks.

“I come every Monday and Wednesday — Nathalie is super kind and warm, and does an incredible job of making you feel like you’re at home,” regular Gaby Leon told CharlotteFive.

Customers line up at Neighborhood Coffee.
Customers line up at Neighborhood Coffee.

International flair

Since opening NBHD, Thompson has worked to source coffee from countries represented by Charlotte’s refugee population. This includes coffee from Congo, which is fitting as NBHD teammate Felix (who roasts all of the beans on site) is from Congo.

Indenge has added her own touch to the coffee shop, making homemade Congolese galettes from time to time. Best described as a donut waffle, this is one of a variety of pastries available at NBHD. “We’ve tried to make sure there are influences from other countries on the menu,” Thompson said.

Through the end of the year, NBHD has specialty drinks on its seasonal menu: Fireside Chat, which blends together cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and brown sugar; Christmas Calm, a blend of cardamom and lavender; and Cousin Eddie Latte, an eggnog and nutmeg latte.

“It’s been a lot of fun seeing international friends try ‘American’ versions of coffee,” Thompson said. “Especially eggnog lattes — I’ve been surprised how many people try and love eggnog lattes.”

Stop by for a drink soon — there’s plenty of room in the neighborhood.

Neighborhood Coffee is open weekdays, 8 a.m..-1 p.m.
Neighborhood Coffee is open weekdays, 8 a.m..-1 p.m.

Neighborhood Coffee Roasters

Location: 3646 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205

Menu

Cuisine: Coffee, pastries

Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m

Instagram: @neighborhoodcoffeeclt