Prioritizing the Neighborhood

As Muggin Coffee House expands, its mission remains the same

Photography by Kim Thomas

Breakfast and coffee go hand-in-hand. And Ken and Mary Olds believe that classic pairing should be available to anyone, no matter where they live. When the couple founded Muggin Coffee House in 2019, their vision was simple and clear: to offer coffee and a traditional coffee-house atmosphere in neighborhoods that typically don’t have access to that.

“What we found is a lot of traditionally Black neighborhoods lack coffee,” says Mary.

“You do not have a space where you can go get a cup of coffee or sit and catch up with friends or chill or study, work from home, or whatever you may need. The community lacks it.”

They opened their first shop in Whitehaven, expanded to Uptown, and now have their sights set on a third location in North Memphis. 

As natives of Whitehaven themselves, Mary and Ken found the South Memphis neighborhood a natural fit for their first venture. “We wanted to do something that would impact the community we grew up in, both from an economic standpoint and something that the community could be proud of,” says Mary.

Getting the business off the ground was difficult, but funding and support from local partners helped. “We were fortunate,” says Ken. “We found a great partner in River City Capital, as well as EDGE [Economic Development Growth Engine] and the Memphis Medical District Collaborative.”

While they’ve received help from local partners, they also have intentionally given back to the communities they’re in since day one.

They’ve prioritized hiring employees who live within walking distance of their shops, hoping to help eliminate barriers (like transportation) for individuals seeking employment. And in 2020, Mary and Ken started the Muggin Vision Scholarship. The $250 scholarship aims to help fund supplies and other necessities for students transitioning into college. They also hope the scholarship will help more students achieve a college education and eventually return to their home communities with their talent and education.

“It was meant to help students in high school in the Whitehaven area who were going to college,” says Mary. “Both Ken and I remember what that was like [entering college]. We had academic scholarships, and we also came from families that worked really hard, but our family depended on us having those scholarships.”

When their original location was well-established, Ken and Mary began looking at potential locations for their next spot, and they soon zeroed in on Uptown.

“After the closing of The Office @ Uptown in the pandemic, we were hoping to step into that gap to continue to provide a space where people could have a sense of community,” explains Mary.

In addition to a sense of community, Mary and Ken wanted to provide coffee.

“I could tell the area was up and coming, and it did not have access to [coffee] shops unless you go deeper into the downtown area,” says Ken. “So this fit within our model and our mission.”

They opened their Uptown location in September 2023 with the same menu and mission as their original shop.

“The coffee shop experience should be a vibe, and that’s what we wanted for Muggin,” says Ken.

“That is something central to our culture, so when expanding to Uptown, we had to bring that same energy.”

They plan to take that Muggin vibe and open a third shop, this one in North Memphis, soon.

Whichever location you visit, you’ll find staples like drip coffee and lattes, along with unique specials, like the customer favorite Flickin on Beale, a frappe featuring blended chocolate mocha and caramel. Another popular Muggin original is the Muggin Mane latte with caramel drizzle, espresso, steamed milk, and cheesecake flavoring.

Want a breakfast bite or afternoon snack to go along with your coffee? The sweet potato loaf, made by Kristie Williams, is a must try, and Lydia’s Healthy Edibles provides vegan treats.

Muggin intentionally uses only local vendors and businesses for its pastries and its coffee. Memphis roaster J. Brooks roasts their coffee, including the house blends. 

In 2023, their focus on giving back to the communities they’re in won Muggin the ICED Loan Impact/Business of the Year award from EDGE, an organization focused on economic advancement and prosperity in Memphis and Shelby County. 

For Mary, it’s the people that have helped her stay focused on the Muggin mission. “The people keep me motivated—not only the customers, but our team,” she says.

“The team that is there, in both locations, are committed to the success and impact of Muggin.

They ride for me, so I ride for them.”

Muggin Coffee House
1139 Brownlee Road
606 North Main Street

Rashod Cobb – Originally from Jackson, Tennessee, Rashod graduated from University of Memphis in August 2023 and has pursued his passion by writing any article he can get his hands on. First making his mark with The Daily Memphian, he now works for Shelby County, while pursuing his passion for writing in his free time. @rjcobb_

Kim Thomas is a lifestyle blogger and photographer based in Memphis. Launched in September 2010, her blog, KP Fusion, provides of-the-moment fashion, style, and beauty tips and trends with a little Memphis flavor thrown in. @kpfusion