Aliviah Jones, Contributing Writer
A new Jackson Ward social cafe — named after rhythm and blues artist Maxwell’s first album “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite” — opened at the end of last month, joining the ranks of a number of social spaces in Richmond.
Entrepreneur Kelli Lemon, founder of Urban Hang Suite, had thought about opening a social cafe since attending the University of Virginia. After working at bars and restaurants, Lemon realized those were the two types of establishments she did not want to open, but rather something in between.
“If you believe that everything happens for a reason, then this was already placed in my path,” Lemon said. “I just had to execute it.”
The profits during the opening of Urban Hang Suite tripled Lemon’s original estimates. It took Lemon exactly a year from signing the lease of Urban Hang Suite to opening its doors to the public. Lemon, a Hampton native, said it is entirely possible that she will open an Urban Hang Suite in the Hampton Roads area and other cities in Virginia.
Lemon’s podcast “Coffee with Strangers” helped shape the idea of Urban Hang Suite. In her podcast, Lemon meets up with different people at coffee shops and talks to them about living in Richmond.
“I wanted it be an urban environment,” Lemon said. “A place where people could hang out as long as they wanted to.”
The layout of the social cafe begins with the front half, where customers sit down to eat or drink. The back half, which has dimmer lighting, is the “hang suite” where people can socialize by playing live music on stage, watch television, play board games or just lounge on the couch.
“This is not that quiet spot like the third floor of the library, this is where people can hangout, work and be creative,” Lemon said. “Think of this as the Commons, but doper.”
Lemon wants the social cafe to be as mature as possible and welcomes the VCU community. She is also looking to hire students.
VCU alumna Shikena Ruffin described the cafe’s atmosphere as chill and comfortable.
“I felt welcomed as if I’d been there before,” Ruffin said.
She found out about the opening of Urban Hang Suite through Lemon’s Instagram. Ruffin has attended events hosted by Lemon and Richmond DJ Lonnie B, which includes the “Art of Noise” party that the duo has hosted for five years with two other DJs.
Quianna Adams, a graduate student at VCU, said the cafe looks “cute and quiet” at first glance.
“But once you open the door you hear the music pumping and people chatting and see cool artwork on the walls,” Adams said.
A mix of R&B and rap music was playing when Adams visited the space, which she said was packed, but the amount of music and people mixed well.
Urban Hang Suite is located at 304 E. Broad street and open everyday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.