1658 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009
Where am I? That’s the question I asked myself upon entering Potter’s House, located at the junction between the Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights neighborhoods. A piece of paper taped to the front window read “Black Lives Matter,” reminding visitors to quite literally check their ignorance, and their privilege, at the door.
As I walked through the front door, it was not apparent whether I had entered a bookstore or a coffeehouse. Shelves on each wall were filled with books for sale, divided by genres such as Movements + Activism, Social Issues, and Global Concerns. Yet there were also tables and chairs inhabited by people with computers, headphones, and cups of coffee. As I ventured further back into the shop, I finally met the coffee bar. I ordered myself an iced coffee, which was served to me in a large, clear glass. It always surprises me how much better a beverage tastes in a glass as opposed to a mug or plastic cup.
Although Potter’s House has more seating than the average coffee shop, every spot was occupied at the time I arrived. Luckily, there were plenty of books to distract me while I waited. Eventually, a space opened up for me on the couch beside the Literature and Cultural Studies sections. To my left, two employees were stacking and organizing books, all while discussing the pros and cons of capitalism.
In comparison to other DC coffeeshops, Potter’s House is relatively quiet. Most of the customers I observed were either reading or doing work on a computer. The music that played was of a peculiar nature, and it gave the place a kind of sonic character.
In the hall leading up to the restroom, framed photographs, newspaper articles, and artwork grace the length of the walls. These features include reviews of Potter’s House as well as artistic and literary statements that confronted issues of race, class, and religion. My favorite thing about Potter’s House is that it challenges its customers to reflect on the world in which they live, to not simply discuss the prospect of change but drive themselves to take action. I came to Potter’s House feeling thirsty for a good cup of coffee. I left feeling driven, enlightened, and inspired.