(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Inside DRIP Espresso · Community · Culture, the ambiance is set by smooth nineties R&B tunes and the rhythmic hum of espresso machines brewing coffee. The walls are adorned with vinyl records from music artists like SZA and the Wu-Tang Clan, against the backdrop of a mural with swaying palm leaves. Bookshelves proudly display works by James Baldwin and the Dalai Lama, surrounded by striking black and white photography from local artists.
DRIP Espresso is the vision of three sisters, Jasmine Bronson, Keiona Williamson, and Taylor White. They are co-owners of one of the few black-owned and woman-owned businesses in California’s Capital city. It is a labor of love built on foundations of family and legacy. Today, co-owner, Jasmine Bronson, is behind the counter running the show.
What started with a desire to fulfill one sister’s lifelong dream to open a café and another’s wish to create a space for people to telework amid the COVID-19 pandemic, blossomed into a thriving business and community space. Bronson and her sisters raised nearly $8,000 through an iFundWomen online campaign to raise money to open the shop. Initially, the location for DRIP Espresso was going to be a vegan café run by their parents, Jaeda and Lenny Barnes, but the pandemic delayed the opening. When Lenny passed away, Bronson said their mother decided not to open the café and offered the sisters to lease the space. They agreed, and DRIP Espresso was born.
“It feels like the dream [they] had is still living on,” said Bronson of her parents’ legacy as small business owners themselves. “It’s nice for her to see us walking in her footsteps, continuing the legacy, and keeping the good vibes.”
DRIP Espresso opened its doors to the public in March 2022 with the intent of being a “co-working space, resource center, [and] small event space for up-and-coming businesses,” said Bronson. Coffee came as the final piece of the sisters’ business plan. They needed a way to sustain themselves as a business in order to offer free and low-cost opportunities to community members and entrepreneurs. Their website emphasizes their dedication to “provide a welcoming environment that empowers individuals to engage, connect, and flourish.”
Since opening, DRIP Espresso has worked with local organizations to enrich and celebrate the community. Every second Saturday, the sisters, who are all Sacramento natives, join the Midtown Association Art Walk and provide a space for local artists to showcase and sell their artwork at the coffee shop.
“It’s not too many coffee shops that are offering artists to come in and put up their work,” said artist Kachiside Madu, whose powerful photographs of black culture and activism are on display at DRIP Espresso. “They were so receptive and open to me coming in. As an artist, that makes me feel valued. That makes me feel seen, which, to me, is what humanity is all about.” The sisters also host open mic nights, corporate mixers, resumé workshops, book clubs, and political information sessions.
Sacramento’s historically white Midtown district, home to DRIP Espresso, has relatively few Black-owned businesses but that hasn’t affected the sisters. “To be honest, in terms of race and being women, I don’t feel like we had any challenges in that way. The community really embraced us and uplifted us,” said Bronson. “I just feel like post-pandemic, people are being a lot more intentional about where their dollars are going.” Nationwide, support for Black businesses surged in 2020, amid events like the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement. During that same year, the Pew Research Center reported just under 14,000 Black-owned businesses in California.
Bronson and her sisters successfully maintain ownership of the coffee shop alongside their other commitments. In addition to raising two teenagers, Bronson works in cybersecurity for the State of California.
“That’s our motto: we have a sister for everything. We all are very good at different things and we don’t really step on each other’s toes,” said Bronson. “Taylor, for instance, does our menu curation. Me, I’m more of operations. The day-to-day, dealing with the staff, hiring, inventory, events. Keiona is in charge of marketing, social media and outreach.”
A Sacramento local and regular at the shop, Melanie Levy, walked into the coffee shop toward the end of Bronson’s shift with two friends visiting from out of town. Bronson, greets them with her infectious smile and a cheerful, “Hey, how you guys doing? Have you been in before?” Levy shares that she regularly attends the book club hosted at the shop and stopped by to introduce her friends to the Sacramento coffee scene.
“This is my favorite spot! This place goes over and above just making coffee,” said Levy. “Bringing the community together versus coming in and getting your coffee and leaving, people come in here and they talk to each other so it’s a good vibe. It feels like you’re coming somewhere that’s comfortable.”