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Kickstarter campaign can help turn Inwood coffee shop into a community hub

A Kickstarter campaign from Buunni Coffee, Zena Group

A Kickstarter campaign from Buunni Coffee, Zena Group and Bread & Yoga is raising money for professional equipment that would go toward offering the community a space to catch performances, talks, readings and more. Photo Credit: Cristobal Vivar

Inwood may get a new community space outfitted for performance and art this fall.

The owners of Buunni Coffee, theater production group Zena Group and Bread & Yoga have united to create a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 for professional equipment — lighting, sound, a projector screen and platform stage — for Buunni's newest space at 4961 Broadway.

Buunni Coffee, which serves Ethiopian coffees and baked goods, has hosted a variety of programming at its 1,000-square-foot Inwood store (as well as at its Washington Heights and Riverdale locations), but owners are envisioning a space dedicated to the community.

There's a "long way to go," said Sarina Prabasi, Buunni Coffee co-founder. 

As of Monday afternoon, the campaign had more than $11,500 raised by 195 backers with 18 days to go.

"We continue to be really inspired by the uptown community spirit," Prabasi told amNewYork. "We are an immigrant-owned small business that has been really welcomed by the community, and we feel like this is a way for us to offer something we feel the community wants and would value."

The funds raised would help the businesses purchase a small LED lighting plot, a sound system, a removable platform stage, and a projector and screen, she said. 

By asking for the community's help, Buunni says it will help keep entrance fees low and/or free, allowing locals to feel like it's "something owned by everybody," Prabasi said.

"We want the equipment we purchase to be good quality so people feel comfortable performing, doing talks, meeting, whatever it is," she added. "We want it to be a good space that will attract the talented and those who support the Kickstarter, come to or perform at the shows has a stake in it."

If they reach their $25,000 goal, they expect to start programming in September and would launch an open submission form for those who would like to perform at the space.

Prabasi, who wrote a book about the coffee house's role as a local hub across history called "The Coffeehouse Resistance: Brewing Hope in Desperate Times," sees this as a chance to fill a need.

"There is a lot of artistic talent uptown and a lot of times, people go somewhere else to perform, but it is nice to perform for your neighbors," Prabasi said. "Uptown is an active area with issues going on with housing, health care and immigrant rights, so having a place where we can have some of those discussions, for me, is an important aspect of it."

Her personal vision comes from her and her husband Elias' love of Ethiopian coffee culture, where coffee is a communal thing, where it's about getting together with people, discussion and storytelling, she said. 

"We knew we couldn’t just cut and paste that, but we wanted to bring that to our community," she said. "Coffee alone would be very strange in Ethiopian culture."

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