I could see the bright lighting and the pop of African-inspired fabric from the windows as I walked across the neutral ground to the crisp white two-story building. This jewel of a place showcases Black Brilliance, creativity, and resilience! Baldwin andCo., named after the African-American writer and activist, isn’t just a bookstore and coffee shop but also a cultural hub that empowers our community.
New Orleans native and entrepreneur DJ Johnson managed to birth both Baldwin & Co and NOLA Art Bar at the height of gentrification in New Orleans and the COVID-19 pandemic. DJ knows first hand the struggles that come with living in New Orleans. He and his six siblings were raised in this very neighborhood in the 8th Ward of New Orleans. He would ultimately leave the city to become an information technology professional in Atlanta, but not for long. DJ came like a Black New Orleans Super Hero showing us that we have the power to reclaim and re-root ourselves in our communities.
The adjacent pink building, better known as Genes PoBoys, and its location in one of the city’s most gentrified neighborhoods reflects Black New Orleanians’ current challenges struggling to continue to call New Orleans home. The rumor of Gene’s being sold to a wealthy builder to replace the property with more expensive condos and Airbnbs tore at the souls of us who felt the push out of gentrification. The grand opening’s turnout expressed how relieved we were to find out that the buyer was one of us and that he thought of us when purchasing the property.
My sister and I received incredible hospitality from the owner DJ Johnson. He described the menu, which contained items named after James Baldwin’s book titles and in great detail, followed by recommending what I should get after hearing that I wasn’t a coffee connoisseur. While informing us of his delicious menu, Most of the coffee is named after James Baldwin’s books.
I made my way through the transparent glass door; the rich aroma of coffee and sugar infuses the air, flowing out into the street—my mouth waters at the sight of the warm fresh pastries displayed in the glass cases. Talking about the foods and drinks there, they were equally delicious and appetizing, especially baked goodies like Muffins, Croissants, and Quiche, all made by his mother. DJ recommended the Lemon Almond Muffin, and my taste buds couldn’t be happier. muffins are spongy, moist, and with the zest of lemon, the crunch of almonds, and a sweet lemon glaze over the top
Baldwin & Co is artfully designed with a mixture of African-inspired decor and contemporary furnishings. White walls are adorned with eye-catching artwork, African print-covered chairs, honey-colored wooden shelves of books written by past and present authors, and the garden courtyard patio make for a serene sanctuary. The flower vases on the tables added to the elegance of the café even more. When you enter the Coffeeshop doors, you are greeted with enticing scents, a creative atmosphere, and friendly smiles. You’ll be happy to sit, sip and indulge in good eats and a great book.
Open 7 days a week 7am – 3pm
1030 Elysian Fields Ave
New Orleans, Louisiana 70117