Newly opened cafe in Birmingham gives homeless people a chance to work

By Ryan Michaels | The Birmingham Times

Troy Whetstone, owner of the recently opened Modern House cafe in Titusville, said he wasn’t a coffee fan until recently. “I’ll go get a Mountain Dew if I need a little hype,” Whetstone said.

Modern House, which has been under construction since 2019, held its grand opening on September 23 in Titusville. Whetstone wants to do more than just serve coffee. He wants his store to be a catalyst for homeless people to learn valuable skills, he said.

“For a lot of these companies, the minimum is soft skills, being a people person, dealing with that kind of stuff, knowing how to interact with people, so that’s kind of what we’re doing here. We’re incorporating that here through coffee,” he said.

In addition to providing people skills training and paying $12 an hour, his company will partner with Lawson State Community College to help employees earn professional certifications, he said.

Whetstone developed a passion for homeless people through her church, Faith Chapel, located in the Sherman Heights neighborhood of Birmingham. The church also runs its care center in Smithfield which provides showers, laundry and other services to homeless people.

Working weekly to oversee the care center showers, Whetstone said he wanted to do more for the homeless population.

“You wouldn’t even know [many were homeless]. It was just something that happened, and it made them homeless, but they’re still trying to get through it, so we just hope we can be that extra help, that extra step,” Whetstone said. .

Besides Lawson State and Faith Chapel, Whetstone has also partnered with many other organizations, including the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

Opening his cafe isn’t Whetstone’s first experience with Titusville. He and his wife Jeanisha, with whom Whetstone runs Modern House, spent part of their first marriage there at a former family home, which has been in his family for more than 30 years.

“I was 20, she was 18, and it was an opportunity for us to live there rent-free,” Whetstone said of him and his wife. “All we had to do was pay for our utilities, so it gave us the opportunity to grow without…having credit, without having a living wage, having to work two part-time jobs to make it a full-time job.”

“Titusville helped me grow as a man,” he added.

In the process, Whetstone expanded his knowledge of coffee, like the different tastes.

“I had a cup the other day, just black, just to get that flavor…so I’m just trying to learn more about the industry, and the more I learn, the more different aspects I see growth of this business,” he said. said.

In 2019 he ran a series of pop-ups in the Ensley community of Birmingham, where he planned to open a physical store.

Jeff Huey, founder of Homewood-based Seeds Coffee and Whetstone’s business partner, encouraged Whestone to move the business to Titusville.

“I literally left Seeds in Homewood and drove here. I was up and down Sixth Avenue [South]back and forth, then I saw one building up there to the left, then I saw this one right here,” Whetstone said.

This building, now the Modern House, reminded Whetstone of a favorite restaurant of his and his wife’s in New Orleans, LA called Surrey’s Café & Juice Bar.

“It’s a cabin,” Whetstone said of the small structure with a simple design. “It’s like [the Modern House building], but it’s still packed, and it’s like one of those local spots. If you’re not from that area of ​​New Orleans, you might not know unless someone shared it with you. And when it’s shared with you, you’re going to go for it every time,” Whetstone said.

Whetstone, 35, grew up in Fairfield until third grade before moving to Hueytown, where he first met his wife and graduated from Hueytown High School. Whetstone is the son of Troy Whetstone Sr., a former aviation expert, and Patricia, a former Buffalo Rock Company administrative employee, and has one sister, Kimberley.

Whetstone also owns Aircraft Cleaning Solutions, an aircraft detailing company he founded in 2010. Whetstone said he was brought into the business by his father following the 2008 economic downturn.

“I liked the jets. I liked the vibe, the business I was seeing, and we started the business. »

Realizing he wanted to learn more about aviation, Whetstone took classes at Lawson State, enough to get into Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management. ‘aviation.

Aircraft Cleaning Solutions started out as a “hustle” that turned into a career, Whetstone said. Thanks to shrewd business approaches and quality workmanship, it immediately succeeded,” Whetstone said.

Modern House is a chance for Whetstone to express its entrepreneurial spirit by providing community service, he said.

“With me being an entrepreneur, just having that mindset… seeing a void and filling it.

“I saw an opportunity to provide the coffee, to provide jobs, to provide opportunities, to provide these soft skills trainings,” he said.

Modern House Coffee Shop is located at 422 Sixth Avenue S and is open 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Find Modern House on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the_modern_house__/

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.


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