June 17, 2021
Community Spotlight: Welton Street Cafe, A Five Points staple providing comfort food and a place of gathering for the Black Community
Since opening at their current location in 1999, Welton Street Cafe, owned and operated by the Dickerson family, has been feeding families in the Five Points community for over 20 years. The cafe acts as a prominent safe space for the Black community in Denver. Prior to the COVID pandemic, people gathered in the cafe’s dining room to enjoy the city's best savory southern comfort food. Black people in Denver view the cafe as a safe affinity space, to gather, eat, share ideas, and have conversations around music and art.
Fathima Dickerson, co-owner of Welton Street Cafe, uses the establishment to support the unheard voices in the Five Points community by allowing Black artists to sell their artwork in the cafe, coordinating a photoshoot for the Black women entrepreneurs, and by feeding and accepting everyone who visits the cafe.
I sat down with her to chat about her experience operating a Black-owned restaurant in Denver, her involvement in the Black arts community in Five Points, and ways to support the cafe.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your experience being a Black-owned business in Denver, a predominately White city?
To be Black in Denver, you have to have places where you can be Black, where you can be 100% yourself—The Welton Street Cafe is Black as f*ck! We value preserving Black culture. It is important not only being located in a predominately White city, but also considering the push to wash out and gentrify the area. It gives me goosebumps thinking about losing that and what it’ll mean for the Black community. Outside of this place, it is hard to find spaces for the Black community. When I meet Black people from out of town, I can’t suggest local spots like church or the barber shop. I always send Black people from out of town down to Narkita Gold’s Black in Denver exhibition or to the Museum for Black Girls. Black people are always looking for Black experiences. We need more places that are Black, that welcome all generations, all ages, and all members of the community.
Can you describe the relationship the cafe has with the Five Points community, specifically with other artists, art institutions, and Black-owned businesses? What about the greater Denver area?
The cafe participates in a Five Points art walk every third Wednesday, where artists can use our space to sell their artwork. We understand that Black artists need exposure and a chance to become successful. If Black people don’t give other Black people the opportunity, who will? We see this in the support we get through the community. This past year, it has been Black community members stepping up to support the cafe and we recognize that. We like to take photos of the community and anyone who comes in to eat. I’m always rooting for the people who are unseen. My customers are all celebrities.
I also have a good relationship with Charlie Billingsley from the Museum of Black Girls. This past March, in honor of Women’s [History] Month, I coordinated a photo shoot featuring 20 Black businesswomen and entrepreneurs in Five Points. Each woman’s portrait, along with a brief interview, can be viewed at the Museum for Black Girls. People want to know who represents the historically Black district of Five Points and here they are. These are the heroes of our community. It meant a lot to be able to feature them and their stories. This ultimately has become more than food. We have built opportunities for the community to become heard and represented.
Considering the aggressive push to gentrify the neighborhood and the unexpected COVID pandemic, how can the community support the cafe during this time?
Just continue to show up and support! We are open Tuesday through Friday from 11AM to 8PM and Saturdays from NOON to 8PM. Everyone is welcome! A lot of our support comes from within the Five Points community. It’s nice to know we are able to support and feed Black families. Our community is everything. If I’m not feeding you, I’m probably feeding your grandma or your cousin. You can also see the physical effect the space has on some of our customers when they walk through the doors and instantly relax. There is a mutual understanding that you can be unapologetically Black here.
Juneteenth is this weekend, Saturday, June 19th. How does the Welton Street Cafe celebrate?
Juneteenth is a celebration of Black lives and businesses. Everyday is Juneteenth at the Welton Street Cafe. Everyday we celebrate being Black!
Stay connected with Welton Street Cafe on Instagram at @weltonstcafe. To see all Juneteenth events happening in Denver, visit here.