Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Coffee, creativity, and community

Andre Mazelin’s goal in life was not to own a coffeehouse. room-1He was happy enough in his job as Operations Director for the Creative Alliance. But when he saw the “for rent” sign on the former Red Emma’s building at the corner of St. Paul and Madison streets in his neighborhood of Mount Vernon, he was intrigued.

“It was a very raw space, but I saw the potential with where it was  a great corner in a great neighborhood,” Mazelin says.

That flash of inspiration is what led to the May opening of the Room, a small space with a whole lot going on: artisan sandwiches and salads for the lunch crowd, exotic coffee blends for caffeine seekers, beer and wine at the bar. Like most coffeehouses these days, there’s wi-fi so you can scan the news or bang out your novel as you look up through the big glass window at  throom-2e passers-by on St. Paul.

Open Monday through Saturday, the Room also offers a catering menu and recently joined the Foodify network, the platform Strong City is using to help connect exemplary, locally owned establishments to catering opportunities at area nonprofits and corporations seeking to support neighborhood enterprises.

Mazelin wants the Room to be a real “community space,” and to that end he has made it available for special events  so far, candle-making workshops and a poetry reading — and also welcomes small-scale gatherings, as space allows (the café seats about 35). He doesn’t have an entertainment license, so live music is not an option right now, but Mazelin’s goal is to make The Room a place for creative people to share their talents.

One way he accomplishes that is by inviting local artists to display their works on the walls, including two permanent pieces: a large, eye-catching ceiling mural by Solely Supreme and a painting of a cityscape with flowers by Matt Muirhead that takes up a large section of the back wall.

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In addition to local artists, Mazelin is using his space to give a boost to local culinary artisans and craftspeople, for example by featuring cookies from Hvmble Vegan Kitchen, coffee from Thread/Red Emma’s, and a variety of local beers. To realize his vision for the bar area, Mazelin turned to the small Baltimore firms Majer Metal Works and Cedar & Cotton.

Mazelin, a native of Jamaica who has been in Baltimore since 2006, says he is happy to do his part to showcase the creative skills of Baltimoreans, whether the medium is baked goods, paintings, or repurposed furniture.

“There’s a lot of talent in Baltimore,” says Mazelin, adding that he enjoys “working with folks to provide a platform for them — an opportunity for them to show what they can do.”

As part of our Community Wealth Building initiative, Strong City is highlighting local businesses that put residents and communities first, valuing equity, inclusion, and sustainability.