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How a South Arlington coffee shop puts the city's history, diversity on view for residents to learn

Charletra Sharp, in dark green Baylor University colors, poses with a drink from her coffee shop, Cup O' Vibes with a man on her right in a Dallas Cowboys beanie. Behind them hangs a green floral backdrop and a neon sign bearing her Arlington business name.
Charletra Sharp
Charletra Sharp, left, realized her dream when she opened Cup O' Vibe in South Arlington in Fall 2022. Her menu draws inspirations from drinks around the world, including a mango lassi-inspired latte and peach cobbler-flavored chai. Sharp named a drink after coach Anthony Criss (right) in honor of Black History Month.

Charletra Sharp opened Cup O' Vibes in Fall 2022 because she noticed a lack of community coffee shops in South Arlington. She spoke to KERA's Kailey Broussard about the shop's mission.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Opening in South Arlington

"I think location, location, location still applies, but it was really a selfish reason because I was born and raised in Arlington, particularly in South Arlington, and we don't have anything like this in the area. And so it really was meeting the demand of not having a community-based coffee shop in South Arlington, but also filling a gap for myself and my neighbors that live in the area."

What is a community-based coffee shop?

"Our mantra is brewing community, serving culture. That's clear that we are intentional about creating a community-focused atmosphere, which means referring to our customers as neighbors and having opportunities to increase awareness about what's going on in the community, whether that's knowing where polls are located and sharing when the dates are for voting, but also being able to host events that are for the community, whether that's coffee with the chief or having events that are kids friendly, and our baristas just being ones that know the neighbors' names. We learn about the families and officers in the area."

Honoring minority leaders

"We put out a poll and requested our neighbors to recommend or nominate individuals who have impacted community in some way. And they needed to be Arlington affiliated, which means either they are from Arlington, or they have specifically impacted Arlington with those individuals. We had the opportunity to create a drink that was named after them, and then we had boards that described what their impact was, as well as what was in the drink so neighbors could come in and not only learn about the drink that was named after the individuals, but also learn about the impact that these leaders had in the community. So we really loved it. There are still individuals that come in and ask for those drinks. So it's almost like the secret menu that if you knew of the drinks, you can still ask for it and if we have the ingredients will offer it."

Three pictures depict the photos and names of three Black Arlington figures. From left to right: Officer Jillian Michelle Smith, Coach Anthony Criss and Reverend Norman L. Robinson.
Cup O' Vibes
Cup O' Vibes in South Arlington launched drink specials during Black History Month that honored Officer Jillian Michelle Smith, Coach Anthony Criss and Reverend Norman L. Robinson. It's part of the shop's effort to connect the community with local history and culture.

Honoring former Mayor Elzie Odom

"Yes. So again, the mantra is brewing community-serving culture. We want to be able to provide information in a non-intrusive way so that you're learning about all of Arlington's history in a way that doesn't feel lectureish. So, if you know about former Mayor Elzie Odom, then you also know that he was the first minority council member. He also was the first minority mayor elected in 1997. And we really know that that's not information that the community knows, especially if you weren't here in the nineties and you moved here later on or weren't involved in, you know, the politics, civic engagement. So just again, a way to be able to provide information and create more historical references in our community because people just think that we are a blend of Dallas and Fort Worth versus having a culture of our own history."

Opening in a growing part of town

"It's a great time to be in Arlington. It was intentional about thinking about how we show up. I mentioned that I have a background in social work, specifically macro-social work, and so that's really thinking about systems and how they interconnect with one another. But then also the influence and impacts you can have from different platforms. Cup O' Vibes is naturally what people would call a third place in sociology, and that just basically means a place behind home and work that gives a sense of belonging. Typically those are bars and churches and barbershops and salons and coffee shops as well. And so we want to be able to use this as an opportunity to advance the desire of the city at large, to embrace our diversity and give people a sense of inclusion, as well as just knowing that they can be authentically who they are in any place in Arlington."

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, considermaking a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for KERA News and The Arlington Report. Broussard has covered Arlington since 2020 and began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before joining the station in 2021.