Andrew Crawford is on a mission to create and preserve the culture and vibrancy of his hometown in Shreveport, Louisiana. His anecdote? Fostering places to gather, commune, and share a meal or a cup of really good coffee.
While attending Baylor, Crawford (’10) hopped around between coursework, dabbling in a variety of subjects from religion and economics, to then landing on a degree in film and digital media. He said his time at Baylor armed him with the tools to shape his entrepreneurial spirit, but maybe more significantly, it unveiled his passion for coffee and the value in coming together with friends and neighbors.
“During my last year of college, I started to really love coffee and spent a lot of time at coffee shops,” Crawford recalled.
At Baylor, he found his own community, and realized the importance of having spaces to meet and connect.
“I had been working as a web developer since 2009, and we’d typically sit at coffee shops and work at computers for hours,” he said.
After a stint in dairy-free eating when he nixed his coffee plus cream habit, he realized that good coffee really did make a difference.
More than a decade later, Andrew’s roots are fully planted back home in Shreveport. His appreciation for quality coffee and desire for community have turned into a host of successful businesses, all charged with energizing the city he calls home, alongside his wife and fellow Baylor alumna, Shani, and two young children, Norah and Drew.
Located just across the Texas border and about four hours northeast of Waco, Shreveport is a mid-sized bustling city of 200,000. The town is celebrated for its rich history, must-try southern food, a variety of local museums, outdoor trails and pathways, live music, and more. Groups like the Shreveport Downtown Development Authority are working to breathe new life into town.
In tandem, business owners like Crawford are doing their part to preserve the city for the next generation. His coffeeshop, Rhino Coffee, celebrates over ten years in business, and even opened a third location at the end of 2022.
“When I was back in Shreveport, I realized there are no really good coffee shops [beyond the typical chains,]” he said.
Crawford also runs a coffee roastery where he roasts the celebrated brews enjoyed by patrons and ships fresh coffee beans nationwide. His first location opened in 2012, in Uptown on Southfield Road. In 2016, he expanded downtown to Texas Street. When the second location opened, a new employee also had roasting knowledge.
“We had been pushing to increase our quality of coffee and saw this as a perfect opportunity to start roasting our own,” Crawford said. “In 2017, I was approached by a developer working on an area downtown—we opened our second location and roasting facility in his development.”
Now, with the third location in South Shreveport, Crawford is partnering with another business, Southern Maid Donuts, with locations throughout the United States.
Crawford describes Rhino Coffee as a warm and welcoming environment that invites residents to sit, stay, and enjoy the cozy atmosphere.
“I think there is a strong need for community building, and I think fewer and fewer people are talking in person,” he said of his hope to repair that trend. “On any given day at Rhino you can find parents with their children stopping by during a walk, or business meetings and coffee groups getting together, alongside students studying.”
Rhino Coffee also hosts community meetings and has even had a few weddings take place at the shop.
With a roastery and three coffee shops under Crawford’s helm, one might think he is tapped out. But Crawford, alongside business partner Grant Nuckolls who he works with on ventures outside of Rhino Coffee, expanded his vision for revitalizing Shreveport by taking over two longstanding Shreveport staples on the verge of closing shop: Jacquelyn’s Café and Cuban Liquor.
“Jacquelyn’s is a local lunch spot founded by Jacquelyn Casky,” Crawford explained. “She opened the cafe in 1986 with her husband and trained under two well-known chefs. After her husband fell ill and retired, Jackie decided to shut down the restaurant. In a desire to keep this legend open, I approached the two with Grant and bought it from them.”
Not long after, Crawford and Nuckolls were approached by the owner of Cuban Liquor and Gourmet, a local business open since 1934. “The owner was third generation and had been waiting to give his children the opportunity to go into the family business,” Crawford noted. “When it was clear they were going a different direction professionally, he called us.”
Both spots are anchoring pieces of Shreveport history and culture, and Cuban is more than a local liquor store. At one point, the store had thirteen different locations and hosted a citywide three-day-long wine festival with lectures and renowned winemakers, as well as gourmet cooking classes offered as part of its food department, reported Chris Jay, creator and author of independent media outlet Stuffed & Busted.
The longstanding history of both establishments tugged at Crawford.
“What excites me, as corny as it may sound, is Shreveport,” he said. “Cuban and Jacquelyn’s Café were just two staples I didn’t want to see go, and I wanted to introduce them to a different generation. And at Rhino, we have been so happy about how the community has accepted it and made it a part of the community.”
Prior to the onset of COVID-19, Crawford hosted events in Shreveport, like a downtown music festival that welcomed ten thousand patrons, a wine festival, and even a bourbon tasting event. Now, however, he is focusing his efforts primarily on his businesses and continuing to expand Rhino Coffee to reach different parts of the city.
With each venture, the entrepreneur is charged with a desire to showcase and preserve the cultural vibrancy of his home in tandem with providing a delicious meal or a warming cup of joe. Whether that’s through a new restaurant, expanding his coffee offerings, or hosting an event here and there, cultivating community is at the heart of Andrew Crawford’s calling.