Rhett Brinkley
Heaven McKinney (center with scissors) with Arkansas Baptist College officials, city leaders and members of The Grind Coffee Bistro on Tuesday.

Heaven McKinney, owner of The Grind Coffee Bistro, celebrated the grand opening of her new location at Arkansas Baptist College with members of the community, university officials and city leaders on Tuesday.

McKinney, who was also celebrating her birthday, opened her original store in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center in West Little Rock in 2018. The new Arkansas Baptist College barista bar is her second branch to open this year. In March, she opened a drive-thru stand in Bryant.

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The Grind is the third Black-owned food business to open in the university’s student union (1523 MLK Drive) in 2024. In February, Elnora Wesley brought her popular vegan soul food eatery H.O.M.E. Vegan Restaurant to the center; and in April, Corey Nelson celebrated the opening of Chicago Flamin Grill.

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The union’s first floor food court went mostly dormant in the COVID-19 pandemic. Benito Lubazibwa — founder and CEO of ReMix Ideas, an organization committed to supporting Black-owned businesses — took notice. Lubazibwa partnered with Arkansas Baptist College and its foundation to bring three Black-owned food concepts to the center and offer internship opportunities for students of the historically Black college to work in the restaurants. The effort is fitting for the building; the union’s third floor houses the Scott Ford Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development.

“At ReMix Ideas, our goal is to support Black-owned businesses like The Grind Coffee Bistro to thrive,” Lubazibwa said on Tuesday. “We are thrilled to see The Grind Coffee Bistro off to such a promising start and look forward to their continued success in the community,” he said.

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Rhett Brinkley
Heaven McKinney and Benito Lubazibwa

Before the ribbon cutting ceremony, McKinney and Lubazibwa spoke to a crowd that included Little Rock Directors Antwan Phillips and Virgil Miller and former gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones.

McKinney said Lubazibwa has been a big part of her growth as a business owner.

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“When I met him, it was right at [the beginning of] COVID,” she said. “No one knew what we could expect, but I knew that I needed a village and I needed somebody behind me, so I connected with Benito and it has been up since then,” she said.

McKinney said it’s been a very busy year for The Grind. In addition to opening two new locations, she recently started offering dinner three nights a week at the West Little Rock branch, which is also home to a popular soul food Sunday brunch.

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The hard work is for her children, her family and the community, McKinney said.

“It takes a village, and we gotta tell our little people that if they can dream and they can work hard, they can get anything they want in life.”

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Read more about the partnership between ReMix Ideas and Arkansas Baptist College and the restaurant owners operating in the student union in our magazine feature from April.