By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Feb 13, 2024 at 8:59 PM

After three years of planning and anticipation, Kuumba Juice and Coffee opened earlier this month in The Connector Building, located at 274 E. Keefe Ave. in the Harambee neighborhood. 

The mission of the cafe is to provide Anodyne coffee drinks, fresh juice / smoothies and healthy, delicious food in a cozy, plant-filled space that’s open to community activites of all kinds. 


Kuumba’s food menu is a work in progress that currently includes onsite-made baked goods, breakfast sandwiches and salads along with rotating entrees like Vegan peanut stew and beef-or-lamb-filled Shepherd’s Pie.

Kuumba – which is the sixth principal of Kwanzaa honoring creativity and improving spaces – occupies the southern side of the building, which was leveled and completely rebuilt. The space is fresh and inviting, with apricot-colored walls, bright green chairs, lots of greenery and garage doors leading out to a large, enclosed patio.


"It has kind of a tropical coffee house feel. Eventually it will be flooded with plants," says Alexander Hagler, who operates the space with Joe Ferch and Ellie Jackson.

Kuumba also plans to host live music performances, poetry readings and comedy shows on select evenings during which they will serve wine and beer from a neighborhood craft brewery.

A large community room on the northern side of the building serves as a planning hub for the Beerline Trail revitalization efforts and will eventually host wellness classes, financial clinics, art education and more.

“We want this to be a place for people to be creative and think creatively,” says Jackson.


The exterior of the building is adorned with colorful, floral murals created by local artists John Kowalczyk, David Najib Kasir, Fred Kaems and CK Ledesma.

Hagler and Fersh formerly owned Center Street Wellness on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. The business was a retail shop, cafe and fitness/yoga studio that shuttered in 2020 due to pandemic-related challenges.

The men were approached by Riverworks LLC to open something similar in the Connector Building. At first they were hesitant, but once they teamed up with Jackson – who wanted to open a coffee shop for many years – the pieces started falling into place.


“Coffee shops are intentional or unintenional community organizing spaces. It’s the nature of them,” says Jackson. "We will serve good food and coffee here, but it is also a space for wellness, outreach, art and much more."

Kuumba Coffee and Juice is open Friday-Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. in February with a grand opening party and daily service coming in March. Follow Kuumba on Facebook and Instagram.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.