Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Busboys and Poets

A couple of months ago I discovered Busboys and Poets for the first time. I was in Hyattsville on a work assignment and came across their newest location in the Gateway Arts District. I had heard the name before but I’d never been in so I decided to check it out.
 My first reaction was that Busboys and Poets would rock in Columbia. That was only further reinforced when I read how they describe themselves on their website.

“Busboys and Poets is a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted...a place to take a deliberate pause and feed your mind, body and soul...a space for art, culture and politics to intentionally collide...we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world.”

Am I crazy or does this sound like it came right out the Jim Rouse playbook?
I decided to see if I could make a Columbia location happen so I sent an email to Andy Shallal, the impresario behind Busboys and Poets. I refer to Andy as the impresario because, as Judith Rosen writes in Publishers Weekly, “I’m not really a restaurateur,” says Shallal, who opened his first restaurant in 1987. “I’m an activist with food. We all eat. There’s a commonality.” 

He responded to my email in relatively short order, thanking me for the “vote of confidence” in his venture. Regarding downtown Columbia he wrote that he’d “keep this in mind.”

Now the real work begins. 
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