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Meet the creative hit-squad that doubles as AP Cafe’s staff

In a city with thousands of coffee shops, lies a living, breathing, creative sanctuary that doubles down as an ill coffee and bites spot. We’ve already put you on game about the story of AP Cafe, but honestly, the cafe is truly an anthology of the creative minds that makes up the staff.

The Troutman St. kickback is home to artists of all forms, who have formed a family and community for the shared love of all things creative and dank ass food.

We chopped it up with some of the AP crew you might see behind the counter, taking your order, or greeting you as you walk in. Peep the stories of the squad and fire flicks taken by our homie, Setor Tsikudo.

”I definitely didn’t expect myself to be working at a cafe, but all the opportunities I’ve been acquiring here have been amazing.”

Israel McCloud has been making music since he was 14 and even though making lattes wasn’t always the plan, the AP Barista and Events Coordinator has been flexing in the New York creative scene ever since walking into AP cafe. Homie just recorded and produced 80% of his last EP.

He found his way to AP from his bloodline.

“My cousin used to paint in the back and he owns this spot. He pretty much flipped it from his studio to this cafe. 5 years later, I moved out here and he pretty much was like ‘Yo you wanna work at my cafe?’ I was super reluctant, but he told me that I could turn this into a platform for all of the creative things I wanted to do and its been working out very well.”

The minimalism provided a sense of comfort, a new home for McCloud to explore the creative bounds in his mind on a daily. AP is all about helping their staff and community showcase their art and hosted McCloud’s first release party in New York.

While mastering his arts, McCloud wants to continue piecing together the network of creatives all around whether it be a poppin’ party or a daily chop up while brewing coffee behind the counter.

“The opportunities that you get here-it’s great. Working here alone, I meet all of these dope people. I wouldn’t know all of the event planners, managers, artists, all of the creative people I know today without working here. This is a sanctuary in a sense, a realm where people can come and work on their thing and feel completely focused. I still come here and work and I feel really at home.”

“I love that I’m able to work here in my neighborhood.”

Stephanie Ferrer has done it all from working in offices to being an EMT, but cooking has been a lifelong passion. She heard about AP from a friend of a friend and has been cheffing it up ever since.

“I’ve just always been a natural cook, I was raised in a family of women chefs so it just came naturally.”

On a typical day, Ferrer comes in at the crack of dawn, puts on some tunes and starts making her signature yellow rice. As a lead cook, AP gives Ferrer the ability to prep meals from scratch and to play in a lab with the freshest and ever-rotating ingredients.

“The seasonality of the ingredients we get, it’s never boring because we have to change it up with the seasons. Everything’s always fresh, crisp, and that I can play with these ingredients to make different things.“

For Ferrer, the vibes and people are what makes AP so genuine and truly a neighborhood gem. Being alongside so many creatives allows for merging energies to build something special.

“It’s a learning experience every day, we have to always be ready to put something new on the table. You can go up to anybody here and ask ‘Hey what do you think we should do with this?’ Brainstorming here is AMAZING. When we sit as a group, there’s so many ideas, such a flow. We can give you a meal, an outfit, a scene, a photographer, music. There’s something here for everybody.”

“I have this mix of hot blood in me”

Half-Mexican, half-Italian, Michele Lorusso kept having dreams of moving to New York so he took a chance and jet-setted to NYC.

”Instead of choosing a life in Mexico or California or as a nomad, I chose to come to the nomad mecca.”

Lorusso is a Barista at AP but also does gallery work at Kurimanzutto New York, not to mention doing his own work as an artist.

“I see myself as a bridge, a bridge connecting Mexico with the U.S. By doing so, I can venture and appropriate the different creative notions and ways both locations and cultures embed into my artistry in order to put them forth and aid the social symbiosis. I’ve experienced one part of the world (southwest) and right now I’m experiencing another (northeast); I want to merge both and become a bridge. I’m a translator, I’m a photographer, I’m a poet; I am nothing in particular, really. I’m also trying to become a curator in the industry. I think I’m in the right place and that dream was the right decision.”

Lorusso was a regular at AP, a creative vessel expressing himself in the signature minimal backdrop until one day he decided to shoot his shot at a collab with the cafe.

“This back area at the café is where I felt more comfortable writing, the walls are empty and that takes away the distraction that maybe other coffee shops or venues have for a proper creative focus. I would come here often and write articles on art and artists. One day I went to Nellie, our manager, an overall entity of love, our mother in a way, our AP mother. I told her that I am an experienced barista and would love to work with her. She was up for the journey.”

Lorusso has been behind the counter and collaborating with the rest of the squad every since. For him, AP is a consistent source of inspiration for everyone that walks in.

“Come in on your worst day or your best day and we will always try to give what we know best to give, which is inspiration.”

Another member of the cooking and baking squad, Essined Perez is a local of Jefferson Street but was raised back and forth from Puerto Rico and The states.

Fellow chef and close friend Stephanie brought Perez to AP which makes sense since they both share a love for making bites.

”I love the environment here. There are times I leave my house just to come here and relax. This is my home away from home… I was nervous, but I felt very welcomed.”

Perez has the hands with sponge cakes when it comes to sweets and loves to make dishes from other cultures.

Nellie has been pushing me to put myself out there more and being here, I am trying to gain more confidence and put stuff out there more. I definitely want to expand my baking skills.”

”We all work as a team, we all help each other and at a lot of jobs you don’t get that. As soon as you walk in you feel the environment. Everybody is chill and always smiling. Even if you come her on a bad day, you’ll feel relieved”

Oh and the Cake Master herself, fully co-signs Stephanie’s cheesecake skills.

What doesn’t Gabriel Tinoco do? The Chicago-bred creative has been in NYC for 2 years and found his way to AP from a quick yelp search.

”When I got here I had about maybe 6 months of money saved up and half of that went to my rent. My little sister came here and of course, I didn’t make her pay for anything, so I shot through that money really quickly. I literally typed in ‘cool cafe that has wifi.”AP was the second listing from my search and I really liked the vibe. I’m very minimal and clean-cut when it comes to design and love airy spaces so I gave it a shot.”

Blown away by the design and energy, Tinoco knew he could help take it to the next level and asked the manager at the time to hop on aboard with his prior experience at cafes.

Fast forward two years later, Tinoco has his hands in creative direction, events, social media and more both in and outside of the cafe.

“Its kinda like what don’t I do, which is the same for a lot of people that work here. They’re all artists in their own right and bring this energy here which is absolutely crazy. Working here and having a space, a creative hub, you kinda just do everything. I do a bunch of stuff which gives me the ability to use what I work on here in my personal work.”

Trust, dude’s personal work is ill. After multiple internships and networking with folk in fashion and advertising, Tinoco has gained a rapport with brands that has led him to live in Paris and working with Collette Fashion House and the Tom Brown Installation. On the day-to-day, between freelancing and building campaigns in Havas Media’s creative department and bouncing ideas off of the AP squad, Tinoco has his hands in all things creative.

“We just all work together for our independence creativity and piggyback off each other for the greater good. I consider these to be my brother and sisters. We’re all super young and POC in a neighborhood that is ever-changing and always has something being torn down and built up.”

If you’ve never walked into AP, FYI…

“You don’t have to be creative. There’s no judgment, just come in as you are and we will embrace and accept.”

Brooklyn boy, Joshua Martinez first pulled up the AP for a homie’s show and found his new home.

“The space is amazing, for some reason it feels like my home. When I first came here, I was so comfortable, I was like ight this my living room bro.”

Like the typical AP member, Martinez has multiple hustles. He has been at AP for about three months as a lead cook while he goes to culinary school.

“Everybody here is talented. I’ve never been in a space where its like ‘holy shit, this person does this and that person does that’.

The cook has also been skateboarding for 12 years and oh yeah, homie takes ill flicks on top of skyscrapers on the daily.

“It’s a mental thing and it’s a lot of defeating the odds.”

Martinez scouts the dopest buildings around the city and finesses his way to the roof whether it be making friends at the elevator or showing his IG to put them on game. For him, AP has given him the opportunity to have a safe place to collaborate with other creatives and venture into new things like curating events.

”The past three months has just been exactly what I need. I got evicted 6 months ago because my landlord was stealing money from me. I spoke to Nellie and she gave me a shot and then I had a show here in September and from there a lot of people hit me up and bought all if my prints. We call it AP Creative but we’re all family and bleed the same, so come through.”

Emmanuel Ortiz is a coffee lover from right up the block on Green Ave. Ortiz found himself depressed from working at this last, non-POC spot so he said eff-it. He quit and dyed his hair and one day, he stumbled upon Nellie getting her hair braided by “Mama” or Bertha as the Bushwick locals know her. He got the scoop on the cafe, got a call from Nellie a couple days later and has been the Floor Manager at AP for about a month now.

”I just love coffee in general.”

Ortiz helps run day-to-day operations and overall just makes sure the team is ight at the cafe. On top of being the in-house coffee expert, you can find him practicing on Fruity Loops daily.

”I’ve been in talks with this group called the NCA (National Coffee Association), who wants to make instructional videos on coffee. When I’m not focused that, it’s all music related.”

Ortiz may be the newest person on the team, but the depths to how driven everyone is has been clear from the jump.

“Everyone here has a passion for something that goes beyond. Everybody is like a local star. People come in and they always recognize each other, I’m always charging someone that I think I shouldn’t haha”

Being around so many creatives has motivated Ortiz to develop a portfolio and finish up a musician he’s been crafting.

“It’s more motivation to finish and show people stuff whereas before I was just too shy or nervous.”

His advice for newcomers?

“Get ready to let the ideas flow”

Miami native, Fernando Ruiz was raised and built his life in Venezuela where he was a pilot. He came back to New York five years ago and recently stumbled upon AP as he was applying for jobs online. After a call from Nellie, he has been a part of the middle of house team at the cafe, serving on the floor, bussing tables and making deliveries.

“The people that I met here are wild in the best way possible you can imagine. It’s like a dream team, you feel each person supporting you. We’re like a real family. When we are here, we don’t feel like we’re working because we are family.”

The family vibes aren’t forced, it comes naturally in AP’s sleek space. Ruiz describes the space as the “perfect environment,” where he can not only express himself but meet new people as well.

Currently, Ruiz is working on reevaluating his pilot license in the U.S. which will be a brolic task, but he’s up for the challenge with the support of his team turned real friends at AP. A place different.

“You don’t feel like you are in New York when you’re here. It feels like an indescribable place. At the end of the day, it’s food for your soul.”

“The synchronicity of everyone is wild”

Last but damn sure not least, we have the AP Mama herself. As every AP homie has a different story, they all have the same love and respect for AP’s Chief Operating Officer, Nellie.

“I had no expectation of any form of recognition when entering this job.”

The 25-year-old Brooklynite was hustling as a Soho-House waitress and consultant for multiple restaurants. She stumbled upon AP’s owners Hugo and Nectic as guests at Soho House one night and found herself coming through the doors as a customer one day after a bike ride.

Walking in, she found herself mystified by a physical creation that she had envisioned and made blueprints of. AP was what Nellie always wanted to be a part of. After chopping it up with the owners, she started as the General Manager of the cafe and just celebrated her one year anniversary.

“My team is incredible and as much as they love me, I love them 10x more. Sometimes I sit on the floor because I love to watch them flow, it’s such a beautiful thing”

The magic of AP and the hub of creativity it draws in feels almost too fly to be real. The passion and finesse of each person was never forced, it came natural.

“All of it is by chance. I feel so incredibly grateful to have the team that I have with the knowledge they’re equipped with, the skills they’re equipped with. It’s so much more than making coffee and food, even though we’re great at that, we bring so much more to the table and you can’t submit a Craigslist ad for that.”

Navigating a business and keeping vibrations at an all-time high has been an adulting experience, to say the least, but Nellie knows that it will put everyone on the team on a platform for success.

“It’s really hard as 25-year-olds to run a business and keep it afloat, you learn as you go in terms of taxes, liability, insurance. You’re doing that so you can fund this platform to do your projects. When the place is flooded, we snake the drain, when the electricity is not working, we’re the ones who have to figure it out or call someone to hire. There’s no adults to come and figure it out for us.”

On paper, the cafe is AP Creative, which will be an investor in everyone’s personal projects.

“Working here is paying dues for your aspirations and once those dreams come to life and you need the funding, we’ll feed you that.”

The creative rat-pack is learning as they go to continue building the creative safe haven for the community. Nellie used the AP stage as her own for the first time on October 14, as she launched a women’s collective, #ApplaudingPower alongside her girl hit-squad.

“There’s an epidemic against black and brown women of sterilizing us. At 19 they tried to take my uterus out and I was like ‘fuck that! I went on this voyage, learning all of this information from hormones to history and kept being told to bring people together and share this information.”

#ApplaudingPower is a space to highlight and build up fellow women creators while learning from each other’s experiences. The AP Mama is destined to grow the space to be a destination for inspiration for all that come it’s way.

“AP can mean anything. It starts with “A Place” and then it is used to define whatever the moment entails.”

5 female collectives opening their spaces to women everywhere

Women’s empowerment isn’t only present on the streets during politicized demonstrations, rallies and marches, but is increasingly being found in places of work.

Indeed, there are more alliances being made between women in multiple industries and businesses, that are often female-founded or female-run, but whose collaborations nonetheless culminate into women joining forces and uniting under the cause of validating each other’s work and creating more opportunities for one another.

And because every day is girls’ day, here is a list of women’s collectives dedicated to offering a platform for girls as part of a larger initiative to erase gender inequity that is characteristic of all industries.

Here’s to these groups that are making sure that girls get the opportunity to reclaim their time.

Camel Assembly

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Normal Sunday

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Though this community of women initially assembled together in New York, it has now expanded into a global one, with locations ranging from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and Hong Kong.

With the collective composed of creatives, leaders, and pioneers in their respective fields, Camel Assembly ultimately serves as a creative hub for women to convene together, collaborate, network, learn from, and inspire one another.

Camel Assembly hosts a variety of events, workshops, and programs that all adhere to the four central ideas that underpin the mission of the women’s collective; Be Healthy, Learn Something, Act Now and Tell Stories.

In speaking to Inspirational Women’s Series, co-founder Keshia Hannam discussed how the Camel Assembly has evolved since its inception, she says,

“At Camel Assembly, we weren’t trying to be a women’s empowerment movement (obviously; look at our name). We were just strong-willed, creative and driven women who came together to use our time effectively and enjoyably, and the result was empowering, inspiring.”

From poetry slams, boxing classes orientated around intimate partner violence, book clubs, and the publishing a weekly newspaper, Camel Assembly offers an array of events, services and an inviting learning environment that many women seek to be a part of.

And things continue to be in the works for the women’s collective; from the development of a video mini-series, organizing a music festival, as well as programs and workshops focused on issues of mental health and wellness.

Be on the lookout for the upcoming events Camel Assembly has to offer!

Women’s Collective at AP Cafe

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You see here the face of the founders of AP Women’s Collective: APPLAUDING POWER. Join us this Sunday, October 14th in the backspace of the Café for a day indulging in #sustenance. We’ve brought together @femmycycle, @essentiawater, @aromakyoor make-your-own station, reiki sessions w @metabalance, self portraits with @camilafalquez, take home “tool boxes”, community library, free draw wall for reflection and expression, and group forums as we groove to the magic of @tiffmcfierce & @djlunarosa . Tickets are limited. Link in bio #divinefeminine #wisewoman #community #womenscollective #brookly #personallegend #fertilityawareness #herbloodisgold #menstrualcup #yonisteam #yonieggs #womenempowerment #womensupportwomen #womenwhorunwiththewolves

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From their inception, coffee houses and cafes have been a site for creatives to congregate. Instead of catering to the white European intellectual bourgeoise male, the crowd at AP Cafe are a radical assortment of bad-ass creatives who gravitate to this Bushwick gem, to collaborate and make connections with like-minded individuals.

Don’t be fooled by the cafe’s minimalist style, because there is an overwhelmingly positive and welcoming energy that permeates the space.

AP is definitely a space to look out for. The cafe serves up the goods; from great coffee, burritos, pancakes, acai bowls, a cracking avocado toast and more.

While the food and coffee are certainly a reason to check out the space, AP offers more than any other standard cafe. AP has also just launched a women’s collective that fosters a community of female creatives, local to the Bushwick area, and from other parts of the borough.

In fact, there is a brunch this Sunday where you can get your introduction to the newly launched Women’s Collective and creative space!

The Wing

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Room to breathe 🌬

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Just by looking at pictures of The Wing, it presents itself as a dream workplace.

Its value lies not only via its modern, bright aesthetic but through its thriving positive, inspiring and encouraging workplace culture that the female collective has come to be known for.

Launching only two years ago, The Wing has attracted some infamous names and feminist icons to headline events. I mean does it get much bigger than landing an intimate sit-down interview with the first woman in U.S history to be elected as the Presidential nominee of a major party? Cue –  Hilary Clinton.

The roots of The Wing derive from a women’s club movement that was originally founded in the late 19th century to early 20th century.

Driven by pioneering women of those early days, The Wing is a chique and modern iteration of the original women’s-club movement. As it has developed, The Wing still draws from its history in its larger project of creating a more inclusive space for women of color and LGBTQIA identified individuals. Importantly, The Wing offers scholarships to underrepresented women in their respective fields.

The Wing collaborates with non-profits and volunteer programs, spotlighting issues present in local communities and in turn, introduces the Wing’s members to participate in these very projects. The club has more than 1,500 members and has multiple locations nationwide!

She Works Collective

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#wcw the ladies from the Summer Solstice Supper!

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Founded in 2015, She Works collective was NYC’s first co-working and event space created for women. Created by founder Joanna Black, in the hope to inspire women to transpose their passions and ideas into a business model, the collective provides an event space for women to showcase their work, ideas, and products.

The collective helps women launch their business ideas via enrolling in the business program AccelHer Now! – that provides the training, tools, and coaching needed for the aspiring young female entrepreneur.

Notably, the co-working space is also a site for community building. After all, many of the women are going through similar experiences in their own work, whether it is pitching an idea to a potential investor, exhibiting their product/s to clients and customers etc.

It is in this way, the co-working space has forged an encouraging workplace culture, where women can seek out advice and suggestions from their co-workers, and at the same time, do their own thing at their personalized workspace.

Female Founder Collective

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“Friend of a Friend was born through a passion of discovery. It is a community where nothing is known or trendy or fleeting and everything is ready to be found: from the coffee shop you walk past everyday with the best scones to the island locale in Greece with unparalleled views of the caldera. I want to abolish the banal in favor of new and noteworthy people, places and things: a diversion from your normal routine. When starting Friend of a Friend, I aspired to create these little moments for my readers in their every day lives—sparks of excitement and new beginnings. Friend of a Friend is just that: a trusted source and community, one degree of separation between you and something new.” — Olivia Perez; Founder of @friendofafriend #femalefoundercollective

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The Female Founder Collective is a female-led network of businesses who are committed to enabling and supporting female owned and led businesses.

The collective offers a platform that brings women together from an array of industries, facilitating connections between business leaders to connect, collaborate, as well as encourage and support one another.

In an interview with Elle magazine, one of the contributors to the collective, Aurora James, emphasized how the collective adheres to a business model that diverges from what is typical of the marketplace – it elevates the idea of “collaboration over competition.”

It is a networking system that is interested in consumer behavior and practices.

In other words, by labeling businesses as part of this female business collective, they seek to inform consumers and provide them with the tools to identify and know that they are giving their money to a female-led or founded company.

Nellie is the vibe curator making AP Café the go-to spot for creatives in BK

I’m not sure if it’s the look or if it’s the feel, but there is something special about AP Café. One thing I do know for sure is that their energy is one of a kind.

You’ll find the creative café tucked away in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn across from a mural of the Bardi Lisa. When you arrive you’ll more than likely be greeted by the general manager and vibe curator Nellie.

Nellie is a 25-year-old Park Slope native, who is no stranger to community activism and youth organizing. She and her team of fellow “creative chefs” put together an amazing assortment of food, drinks, and delicious desserts to grace your palate.

“While I was at school in Chicago I worked for non-profits that were geared towards giving the youth from the southside of Chicago a chance to learn valuable job skills, and be paid for the time they spent with us. It was what took me away from teaching, but the type of work that fuels my passion for building with my people.”

I pulled up to Bushwick to catch up with the young GM and the AP crew to find out more about how the café uses its creative space to help artists of all kind showcase their works.

For starters, Nellie spoke about how she came to AP and how her vision finally came to life. Nellie had this to say about her first encounter with AP,

“Last September I walked in here as a customer, and it blew me away. Visually it really made me stop because it was everything I had drawn out on paper, and planned to get funding to pay designers to build. It was what I had in my brain but right in front of me.”

In October I found myself stepping into AP as a passer-by-turned-customer with no awareness of what was to transpire. In short, I found myself amongst a group of vibrant souls who share the same visions of communal accessibility and curation. Within a couple of days I joined the collective and have been here ever since. These past months have come with growing pains, sleepless nights, beautiful people, wild synergy, tribal feels, tangible progress and visible manifestation. Proud of myself, proud of my crew and honored to have been welcomed on with open arms. I know I have been hard to find – now you know! #managersbelike #aplace #aplacecreative #apcreative #apcafe #apcafenyc #brooklyncoffee #tobysestatecoffee #bushwick #bushwickcollective #native #brooklynnatives #buildyourown #growyourown #personallegend #universallanguage #womenempowerment #womenincharge

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When you first enter AP Café you smell the amazing coffee, you hear the mix of bops their playing, and you feel the productive movement that’s in that space. When you look a bit deeper, however, you can see that AP has a higher purpose.

It isn’t just about the coffee, the pastries, or the delicious food, but it is a place where creativity arrives to flourish. You can see it and hear it with the people coming in and out, the conversations, and collaborations that are being put together.

The space offers you something that you cannot get in any Starbucks, but only in a space carved out for ideas to flow. This place serves as a canvas for you to paint how you see fit.

Nellie took a moment to comment on AP’s focus,

“It’s like you said, when you walked in here, you felt welcome. That’s because this is a space for creatives of all walks. Not just painters and musicians, but for creatives in the community, event planners, and really creatives in any field. We want to put people on, and this space was built for creatives to come and do their thing.”

During my time at AP, the space began to take shape for an event that would be hosted in the back of the cafe that weekend. You could feel what was to come. Live dance performances, a showcase of musical talent, and some dope artwork to fill the gallery ready walls.

What truly makes AP a gem is how it stands as a symbol in a heavily gentrified neighborhood. The gradient of melanin that keeps this place moving, is what makes AP so special. It’s a place where the people who are still hanging on to the culture that once flooded the streets of Bushwick, can go to feel that sense of home.

On top of all that they do to help drive creative culture, their food is hands down, some of the best food I’ve eaten. Ol’Birdy Bastard, Thighs n’ cakes, and the avocado toast AKA “Toast Face Killa” all had my palette dancing. All of this love on a plate was provided by the head of the AP kitchen, Lee.

Lee is a 21-year-old Bushwick native, who has the culinary talent to shock all that try her food. Not only is the food delicious, but Lee doesn’t pull punches on the presentation. Lee had this to tell us about her passion for food. She told me,

“Honestly it came as I began this journey of motherhood. I became a mom really young and just like my mother cooked for me, I cook for my daughter. I learned how to cook from my mom, and put passion behind it for my daughter.”

We dove into how Lee stumbled upon AP, and where she was trained on some of the more technical parts of creating food and presenting it so beautifully. Lee said,

“Well I started working in different restaurants, and for various catering companies no one really saw my passion or my talent, until I came here and met Nellie. She gave me a trial run with one of the old cooks, and I loved everything about it. I feel like I’m with family, and that’s why I enjoy it here. In terms of formal training, I really learned everything from being in different kitchens and catering companies. I took everything I learned from each job and I’m applying it all here.”

Shouts out to Nellie, Lee, and the rest of the crew over at AP Café for showing love to Kulture Hub during our visit. Pull up to 420 Troutman for your next coffee, bite to eat, or to plan your next event.

Head over to their Instagram to check out more of what they have going on, show up to support, and to join the growing creative community.

Never forget, the only way to keep driving culture is to do it together. One love.