Every college and university has a beloved coffee shop that doubles as a study space and hangout spot, buzzing with energy and caffeine. The newly reopened Southern Cofé location in Scotlandville was created to deliver that classic university coffee shop experience, while also fostering community through a variety of outreach initiatives. With a hiking club, a podcast recording space and workspaces available for rent, along with an undeniably delicious menu, Southern Cofé has claimed the hearts of Southern University students and become a staple in the Baton Rouge community. With locations in both Scotlandville and downtown Baton Rouge, owner Horatio Isadore and the team at Southern Cofé are crafting strong coffees and even stronger relationships within our community.
Visit Baton Rouge: How did Southern Cofé come to be?
Horatio Isadore: It was created from a business plan I’d had since 1997 to have a coffee shop by every historically Black college and university (HBCU). I went to Southern, and even back then, I would go around looking for small coffee shops in Baton Rouge, but I had to drive all the way across town—everything happened on that side of town by LSU. So I just thought we [as a community around Southern] could be better than that.
VBR: How did you decide on the name Southern Cofé?
HI: It was originally Southern Cafe, but I was struggling with the name. At the end of every name I would come up with, it'd be some version of “Coffee House & Cafe,” and when I looked online, that's what everybody else had. I was just sitting around one night, and it just hit me. We officially trademarked that word “Cofé,” so there's not another Cofé in the world.
VBR: Your coffee is a hit, but what are some of your best-selling menu items?
HI: Our best sellers right now are smoothies, but we also have fresh gelato, pressed juices, soups, plant-based wraps, salads, sandwiches, espresso, lattes and pastries.
VBR: In addition to offering delicious food and drink, can you tell us about some of the other ways you’re serving the local community?
HI: We offer rental spaces as a way for us to connect with the community, whether it's civic clubs, debate clubs, politicians, individuals or art shows that want to use our spaces. We also have podcast equipment here for rent, where people can reserve a time, plug in and record themselves. It can also be used as a mobile office space. For someone that's just starting out in business and doesn't want to open a brick-and-mortar spot, they can have a meeting here, have a conference call, or whatever—it's available to anyone upon request.
VBR: Can you tell us about the Cofé Hiking Club?
HI: I wanted to get people moving in our community. Hypertension, blood pressure and diabetes are a big thing in our community, and we wanted to tackle that. We also thought it would be a cool way to get people to network—to exercise and do something different. We've had everyone from babies to older folks to young folks to dogs join us—up to 60 people. We do it once a month; just go to the Cofé Hiking Club Instagram and sign up for free.
VBR: In your opinion, why is Southern Cofé important to the Black community in Baton Rouge?
HI: When we first opened in Baton Rouge, we weren't the first coffee shop. We were the first Black-owned coffee shop, which I wasn't even really aware of at the time. But it really mattered to our community, and I wore it with pride. Making sure our community has a high quality of life is so important to me.