The 5400 block of Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia’s Germantown section has become a bit livelier since Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books opened on November 28th. That corner (5445 Germantown Ave) is experiencing increased foot traffic because of the existence of Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books. The store is author, university professor, political commentator and activist Marc Lamont Hill’s baby. It is named after his uncle, Bobbie Lee Hill who inspired him when he was a youngster by exposing him to black authors, books, magazines, intellectual curiosity and stimulation.
Hill opened the store to provide a safe space in the black community where readers, book and coffee lovers could congregate to relax and enjoy an atmosphere provides coffee, books, great food and positive energy.
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books is tastefully decorated and furnished. It is specifically designed to create a cozy homey feel. It offers the requisite wi-fi service, serves gourmet coffee, hot chocolate and teas. They offer bottled soft drinks, made to order and healthy premade sandwiches and deserts from local black vendors. The clientele is an enthusiastic blend of students, artist types, intellectuals, seniors, an ethnic mix and blend and everything in between. The customer service is courteous and friendly and the staff’s positive energy is contagious. There is nothing pretentious about Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books, it’s a great place to go for good food, books and fellowship.
I’ve been there several times, when you go, you’ll find several folks by themselves, reading, working on their laptops or tablets as well as small groups engaged in animated conversation enjoying themselves and the venue. The staff’s energy encourages friendliness and the hustle and bustle of the various transactions doesn’t interfere with the positive energy in the space.
While the store is named after his uncle, Hill also wanted to replicate the energy he experienced in the black book stores when he was coming of age like Hakim’s in West Philadelphia, and Basic Black Books in the old Gallery. Hill’s inventory includes newspapers, children’s books and the type of books befitting a store owned by a socially conscious activist, college professor and nationally recognized media consultant. Part of the store’s hominess is the fact you’ll find Marc Lamont Hill working, actually waiting on customers, serving food and humbly engaged in conversation with the customers. The food is good and the prices are reasonable. They offer breakfast and lunch sandwich menus, salads, pastries, deserts, made to order latté and hot chocolate.
Hill’s goal is to create an oasis of awareness and engagement, a place people can come and be stimulated. He has partnered with a non-profit that has the building next door and they bring in speakers, have Friday night movie screenings, hold discussions, lectures and book signings.
Hours of operation are: Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. So far the community has been very receptive and supportive. Aaron Henry is a West Philadelphia resident, and a student at an Ohio university. Home for the holiday break, Henry was there for the first time after seeing an online article. “I like it. I go to school in Ohio I saw the article and said, ‘I’ve got to check it out’. One thing caught my attention, even though it seems like people don’t believe it, Black people will buy coffee and Black people do like to read. There are different kinds of people here. Some are here to work and not talk some aren’t, some are here to meet friends, and some are people that are more educated, people that are doing coffee shop work. I’m home for the holiday break and I think I will definitely come back.”
Musician, band leader and entrepreneur Warren Oree is a long time Germantown resident. He loves Uncle Bobbie’s. “I’ve known Lamont for quite some time. I used to see him at certain gigs I did. When I read about it, I said, Cool because I do a lot of my work in coffee houses. I write my music and get ideas. I’m always looking for new ones particularly if it’s not the cookie cutter type like Starbucks. I go to Barns and Noble a lot because I like books. So when I heard Lamont had a coffee house and a book store, I said ‘I’ve got to check it out.’ Every time I come here I’m diggin’ it. The whole vibe is nice, a Black man owns it, it stimulates me and it’s about books. I’ve got my cake and eating it too.”
For more information about Uncle Bobbies’ Coffee and Books call (215) 403-7058.