The pillars on which Stefan Hawkins builds up his entrepreneurial dream day in and day out. The coffee - the Fifth Acres brand he created to control the narrative surrounding his business, and the blends inspired by the city he loves. The community – his hometown of Harrisburg, PA and his commitment to giving back and making it proud.
Hawkins opened the doors at Good Brotha’s Book Café's original Midtown location in 2021, a time when many businesses were struggling due to the pandemic but also a time when he felt compelled to be a catalyst in bringing more Black-owned businesses to Harrisburg. “52 percent of Harrisburg is Black,” Hawkins says, “but we only own 3% of the businesses.”
In 2022, Hawkins moved the business to the newly-renovated Dauphin County Library in downtown Harrisburg. The new spot is the perfect "blend" of a great location and a love of books. Good Brotha's will feature and sell Black literature, while the library also offers access a wealth of diverse authors.
Hawkins didn’t want to name his coffee shop after himself. He says it felt pompous to attach his name to what he felt was a historically-significant achievement – opening the first Black-owned coffee shop in Harrisburg. Once Hawkins’ business plan evolved to adding a bookstore element, the name became obvious. He and his friends had a book club called “Good Brothas Can’t Read.” So was born Good Brotha’s Book Café, a place where Hawkins wants the community - especially Black men, a group Hawkins says is historically one of the least well-read demographics – to come together to learn and read and share and inspire through the availability of Black literature.
While sharing literature is one feature of his business, good coffee is his passion. “We’re more of a coffee shop that sells books,” he says. He says when people leave, he wants them to talk about the coffee – the coffee brewed with his Fifth Acres Brand that has a naming story of its own. Hawkins blended the names of the areas where he grew up – South Acres and 5th Street. He has a commitment to always paying respect to “the city that raised me,” naming blends after areas of the inner city like Uptown, South Side, or Hilltop.
Hawkins says he loves to connect with other businesses on projects. The “Boom. Roasted.” Stout at Zeroday Brewing Company is layered with flavors of house brewed espresso sourced from Hawkins’ Fifth Acres Coffee. He’s hosted SpringGate Vineyard for tastings of their Crème Liqueurs. (A shot to spice up your coffee?) There are more long-term collaborations as well. Most days at Good Brotha’s, you’ll find Mieshshia Jackson operating Mi’s Island Vibes to bring Caribbean vibes and flavors to guests who want to grab breakfast or lunch at the café. Hawkins says he loves the variety that collaborations can bring and the community connections they create.
Finally, Hawkins is proud to be a Black business owner, but he makes it clear that he wants guests to leave with one impression – that they just had the best coffee ever. Not the best coffee from a Black-owned business – the best coffee. Period. (Pro tip: Try the Banana Nut Latte!)
As a Harrisburg native, Hawkins certainly has his favorites when it comes to life outside the café. So what does he suggest for visitors?
Hawkins says families should head to Harrisburg’s City Island, especially if it’s baseball season. A self-described sports fanatic, he says some of his favorite places to grab a bite or catch a game are Arooga’s and Ted’s Bar & Grill Midtown. He also enjoys wine and suggests a visit to SpringGate Winery for date night.
We'll step in here to add one more "must" to the list! If you're looking for a vegan dining option? Hawkins also operates House of Vegans. You can grab one of HOV's famous plant-based "Slap Burgers" every Sunday at Taco Amigos on N. 2nd Street in Harrisburg.