Edward C. Stevenson on Making Coffee and Making an Impact
I had the pleasure of speaking to one of our newest makers and founder of Kijiji Specialty Coffees, Edward C. Stevenson. Kijiji is a Black-owned business that has been headquartered in Nashville for more than 20 years. Kijiji Coffee House started in North Nashville and now it has grown to become the specialty coffee retailer you can find all over Nashville—from BNA to Batch. Read on to learn more about Edward and Kijiji’s story!
Kijiji Specialty Coffee has been around for several decades, which is impressive! How did Kijiji get started?
In the ‘90’s, coffee shops were starting to pop up in Nashville. Bongo Java started in 1992 to serve the Belmont University area, but there was a void in North Nashville for TSU students and Meharry Medical College. So, we started Kijiji Coffee House in September 1997 when nearly $30 million was invested in North Nashville during Mayor Bredesen’s second term. Our first location was on Jefferson Street, and in 2001 we built a new building just down the street, which was the first new construction on Jefferson Street in about thirty years.
We were a coffee house and retail location during that time, as well as a provider of coffee at other locations. In the days of Eddie George, Kijiji secured the Titans’ stadium exclusive specialty coffee contract and did that from 1999 to 2015. It was our first major contract, and we had six locations at the stadium. In the recession of 2008/2009, we sold the property and shifted our focus to doing more Kijiji Specialty Coffee kiosks. We have two kiosks at the Nashville Music City Center. Kijiji has also been served at BNA since 2008, and you can find us in the Berry Field Bistro. We will be opening two locations in concourses A and B soon. We have a master roaster here in town, and we bag our coffee up right there.
What did you do before starting Kijiji Specialty Coffee? Tell us more about your background and your family!
Before starting Kijiji Coffee House, I was a production manager on the second shift at Aladdin Industries. I started Kijiji on the side while I was still working there. I am married to my wife Linda, and we have four sons, all of whom have worked for me at some point. Two of them now work for Kijiji Specialty Coffee on a regular basis. All of my sons are in Nashville, and I have nine grandkids.
What was it like founding a business in the neighborhood where you grew up? How has North Nashville changed over the years?
I am a product of North Nashville. I went to Pearl High and then to TSU. Jefferson Street was the Black Wall Street of Nashville until the interstate came through. It was thriving until I was a teenager. With Kijiji Coffee House, we brought back Historic Jefferson Street. Kijiji Coffee House was a springboard for the North Nashville community—a voice box—with its status as a North Nashville watering hole and as the place to go for jazz and open mic poetry nights. Though the Kijiji Coffee House is no longer there, we are still a member of Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership, JUMP, and stay involved. It’s a totally different neighborhood now with much more disposable income.
How did Kijiji get connected with Batch? Which Kijiji coffee varieties can you get from Batch?
Butch Spyridon at Nashville Convention & Vistors Corp introduced me to Batch after Kijiji had a kiosk in their store. I was interested in how I could get Kijiji Specialty Coffee products in Nashville hotels and learned about Batch. They brew Kijiji coffee in the Sweet Pie Creations near the Nashville Farmers’ Market where Batch had its store at the time.
I did coffee samples and a presentation for the Batch team, and they decided to carry the Kijiji Gold Blend, which is a blend of four African coffees and three South American coffees, and the Kijiji Tanzania coffee.
Our coffee is smooth with a little punch—that’s how you recognize Kijiji Specialty Coffee. Most customers want a good flavor, a nice drip. Flavors like vanilla and hazelnut are not in style anymore. People want a good cup of coffee, and that’s what we make.
Buy your bag of Kijiji Specialty Coffee from Batch today! Build a Batch box with the Kijiji Gold Blend or the Kijiji Tanzania with a mug and some pancake mix, and you’ll set yourself and your loved ones up for a great morning.
To read more about Kijiji's history as a Black-owned business and their impact in North Nashville visit their website.