A place for coffee, community, and youth development
In 1990, Melanie March Leehy, whose Christian faith has always guided her community work, was inspired to launch a nonprofit called The Dwelling. “It was a coffeehouse that mentored urban youth and gave them a place to be loved and to call home,” says Leehy, who is almost 60 now, recalling her first coffee shop.
“It was in Anoka, of all places. We averaged 150 kids every Friday and Saturday night, giving them a place to do their art, to do their music, and just be kids.”
Before opening The Dwelling, she had been doing community outreach with youth in Uptown, back in the 1980s and 90s. Even so, she said, “I still never got to realize the full-fledged vision of what I wanted to do.”
After The Dwelling, “I moved my nonprofit to North Minneapolis,” she continued. “I didn’t have the cash to put on the table to buy the space and someone else did.” In the meantime, a friend of hers asked her to be the general manager of his coffee shop at Bordertown Coffee on the U of M campus, where she worked for a few years before opening Mocha Momma’s Coffee.
“Because I was there [at Bordertown], that’s how I learned about the space in the Minneapolis Central Library opening up,” she said of her current location on the first floor of the public library building at 300 Nicollet Mall. “They only reached out to viable coffee shops. And because I was managing Bordertown, that enabled me to launch my vision of a permanent space to mentor youth.”