Black-Owned Business and Community Land Trust Continue to Innovate on Selby with New “Golden Thyme Presents”

Rondo CLT
April 29, 2024
Rondo staff with the Liberated Land Trust Tour delegation
Rondo staff with the Liberated Land Trust Tour delegation

After 24 years running their small business, Mychael and Stephanie Wright are turning over the keys to their beloved Golden Thyme Coffee & Cafe at Selby Jazz Fest — but it’s not the end of the innovation at 934 Selby Avenue. As he was considering retirement, the Rondo Community Land Trust (Rondo CLT) came to Wright with a proposal to grow the iconic business into an engine of collective, community wealth. “I didn’t believe we’d get that kind of offer,” Mychael recalls. “I said, ‘That’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard!’”

For the past 30 years, Rondo CLT has been creating and activating a new community development paradigm designed to repair the harms perpetrated on the Rondo community by the construction of I-94 and create ongoing, collective wealth through permanently affordable housing and commercial spaces for Black- and community-owned businesses. In 2018, Rondo CLT was the first in the state to apply the land trust model to commercial uses. Now, just five years later, they’re once again charting new horizons for reparative economic development, advancing the community vision to rebuild Rondo as an African American cultural destination and commercial district.

“When I was a young girl, Rondo was a place of Black innovation, abundance and joy — and I am fiercely committed to rebuilding the more than 300 businesses and 700 homes that were taken from our families,” says Mikeya Griffin, Executive Director of the Rondo Community Land Trust. “With the leadership of people like Mychael and Stephanie Wright, we’ve made incredible gains along Selby Avenue — but it’s just the beginning. We couldn’t be more honored to steward the Golden Thyme legacy in innovative ways that build collective wealth, while also continuing the history of Black entrepreneurship along this corridor.”

A key aspect of Rondo CLT’s reparative framework is not only financially compensating Black business owners for their contributions, but also providing new and ongoing opportunities for income generation and wealth creation for the broader community. With this transition, Rondo CLT will maintain and test the blending of a franchise and multi-stakeholder cooperative ownership model. As the coffee franchise evolves, the current shop space at 934 Selby Avenue will be transformed into “Golden Thyme Presents” to provide opportunities for BIPOC restaurateurs and food vendors to establish or grow their businesses on an interim basis. The space will also serve as a platform for Rondo-based food businesses to get their start or expand through pop ups or future long-term lease options.

“Like countless other people, I feel something special when I walk into Golden Thyme — the long hours, the heart-driven effort and the immense love that went into building such a unique and inviting culture makes this a neighborhood asset that can and should be preserved for generations to come,” says Coco, Deputy Director at Rondo CLT. “I have been humbled to work alongside the Wrights to ensure that Golden Thyme Presents continues our intentional effort to choose and engage with business owners that honor the cultural legacy and actively contribute to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods.”

As one of the initial occupants of the space, Sammy McDowell is eager to bring his Avenue Eatery to Selby, opening on October 1. “Like Golden Thyme has for decades on Selby, my mission has always been to create spaces where neighbors gather to meet, eat and enjoy everything that’s good,” McDowell says. “I am truly honored to be part of the long history and bright future of Black-owned businesses bringing people together in Rondo.”

As Mychael and Stephanie Wright transition to an active retirement, they are grateful for the community support that have sustained and grown both Golden Thyme and the Selby Jazz Fest. “I’ve been part of the rebuilding of Selby for decades and to see that come to fruition has been so inspiring to me,” Mychael says. “We’ve still got a long way to go but I truly believe we can make Rondo a shining example of the possibilities for economic equity and community-owned wealth, not only here in Minnesota but nationwide.”