C. Oliver Coffee + Flower Bar owner Olivia Ridgel has a vision
Olivia Ridgel’s first job was at a Snobiz in North County. Until recently, that was the extent of her culinary experience. “I did other things, but I just kept coming around to wanting to have a cafe so bad,” she said. In 2018, Ridgel opened a coffee shop in her church to offer kids a place to study. After the little cafe proved successful, she made the leap and opened C. Oliver Coffee + Flower Bar in Maplewood in September 2019. Here, Ridgel chats about her passion for coffee, her COVID wedding and the support she’s received as a Black business owner.
“My parents are basically coffee addicts. I used to think they were so cool, but I wasn’t allowed to have it till I turned 13. They took me to a coffee place that starts with an ‘S’ that’s super popular, and I got a caramel Frappuccino and I didn’t like it. I’ve never been a sweets person. In high school, I started drinking brewed coffee and I fell in love with it.”
“To me, coffee has such a social, warm vibe. I got obsessed and I knew I wanted to serve coffee. … I opened a mini cafe in my church and called it Oliver M’s, so I kept the ‘Oliver’ when I opened this place.”
“I love every cafe in St. Louis, I just didn’t like the brown wood stuff you see most places. I had this vision of where I wanted to study, and I felt like there were people like me who would want the same thing. … There’s a mauve wall with gold accents and marble-topped tables – it’s just a beautiful, airy vibe.”
“I had a corona wedding. We had everything planned to have my dream wedding – it was supposed to be April 10, but we heard on March 21 that the mayor was gonna announce the stay-at-home order. … My family pulled it together literally within 24 hours. They completely rearranged the cafe, and we got married the next day.”
“The [movement to] support black-owned businesses couldn’t have come at a better time. [The stay-at-home orders] knocked down our savings a lot. It was really dwindling. Most small businesses are struggling right now, but some have been open so long that they already have that support built in. I was so new that we didn’t really have that.”
“I often encounter racism – pretty much anytime I walk into a place with white employees. Sometimes, my white friends will say something like, ‘Well, are you sure it was actually racism and not just someone being rude?’ ... When you’ve been dealing with it your whole life, you know the difference.”
“I made this girl a drink, and in a shaky voice, she said, ‘I just want you to know that I believe you guys matter, and I support you and love you and just want to do anything to help.’ I could tell she just really wanted to say that; it was really heartwarming.”
“Engrain it in your children that everyone is loved and equal. That’s really how we can make the change is in our kids.”
More stories like this
St. Louis restaurateur Gerard Craft discusses why your vote matters for the future of restaurants
St. Louis restaurateur Gerard Craft discusses why immigration is an important issue for restaurants and his ...
How YouTube helped St. Louis chef Brian Lagerstrom reclaim the kitchen
As restaurant owners and chefs scramble for solutions in an industry notorious for poor work-life balance, ...