Captions: Oakland’s Kinfolx owners Creighton Davis and Akintude Ahmad.
By JR Valrey, the People’s Minister of Information and editor in chief of the SF Bay View
Kinfolx is one of the nicer establishments that opened in Oakland’s downtown since the end of the covid pandemic, and it happens to be owned by two Black men, Akintunde Ahmad and Creighton Davis. When you walk through the door there is a warm, community earthy vibe – aided by the California-desert decor. All of the students and professional Black people and people of color on their laptops, phones,or having in-person conversations lets you know it is one of the places to be in Oakland, any time they are open.
A who’s who of the Black Bay Area roam in and out of Kinfolx on a regular basis; from journalists, writers, authors, musicians, politicians, dancers, thespians, poets, winemakers, community workers, teachers, students and more. I had to sit down with one of the founders of the beautiful establishment, Kinfolx, located at 1951 Telegraph Ave, in downtown Oakland. Akintude Ahmad is one of the co-founders and he is an Oakland native and young trailblazer in business locally.
JR Valrey: What inspired you and Creighton to go into the cafe business?
Akintunde Ahmad: Creighton and I are both Bay Area natives, with me being born and raised in Oakland, and Creighton being born and raised in San Francisco. We first started connecting to talk about city governance and our respective community work, and quickly realized the void that existed in the downtown Oakland area for spaces that were welcoming to us. It was a struggle to find spacious cafes that stayed open into the evening that fostered a sense of community, so we took it upon ourselves to create that space.
JR Valrey: What was it like to plan to create a new brick and mortar business in Oakland on the tail end of the pandemic, since Kinfolx is newly opened?
Akintunde Ahmad: Walking around Oakland and seeing so many vacant commercial spaces after the pandemic was a motivator for us to create something for the city. We have a strong community and we knew the audience for what we wanted to create existed, so we had to create a plan to bring the space to life. It was a very collaborative effort. We worked with Ashley Williams-Nelson of Wanderlust Aesthetic on the interior design, and Brandon Williams of Home + Space on our bathroom fixtures – both of which are Black owned businesses.
We also worked with Janay Masters of Hella Plants market (another Black owned business) to add live plants to the interior and we have collaborated with a host of artists who were brought to us through ABG Art group, including Shido and Joonbug.
JR Valrey: What is it like opening a Black owned business in Oakland? We’re there any unnecessary hurdles that you encountered?
Akintunde Ahmad: Fortunately for us, we didn’t encounter any unnecessary hurdles in the process. Creighton is an attorney, so he knows how to navigate the legal system when it comes to negotiating contracts, forming LLCs, securing our licenses and making sure we are in full legal operation.
Fundraising to start the business, however, is always a hurdle. We know that our community has not had access to the same opportunities that allow for us to pull from our networks to secure startup capital for our entrepreneurial endeavors, so we relied on family and friends who believed in our plan.
JR Valrey: Downtown Oakland is a very expensive area to start a brick and mortar business, what made you and your partner pick this location? How did you finance it?
Akintunde Ahmad: We dug into our own savings and called on family and friends to help secure the startup capital needed to launch Kinfolx. Knowing the history of ‘Uptown,” we wanted to ensure that our community had a stake and place to call home in this rapidly changing area of Oakland.
We figured with the high foot traffic and surrounding residential real estate, this would be a great place for business, since it is central and accessible for many people in the city.
JR Valrey: For those that have never been to Kinfolx, how would you describe the decor, ambiance and vibe of the space?
Akintunde Ahmad: Kinfolx is welcoming. We want people to feel comfortable in their own skin here. We want people to be able to talk to each other and meet new people and unwind a little.
With comfortable couches and working tables, live plants throughout the space and R&B playing in the background, Kinfolx is simply a vibe.
JR Valrey: How do you want people to feel coming into Kinfolx?
Akintunde Ahmad: We want people to feel welcome. Unfortunately, Oakland has changed a lot, and some places just aren’t welcoming to folks that look like Creighton and I. We made Kinfolx to solve that problem and make sure our people don’t walk into a space in the City they call home and feel like an outlier.
JR Valrey: Where is Kinfolx and how can people reach you online?
Akintunde Ahmad: Kinfolx is located at 1951 Telegraph Ave. You can follow us at @kinfolxoak.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau and is founder of his latest project, the Ministry of Information Podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Instagram.