How the Owner of a Coffee Shop With a Community Fridge Spends Sundays

You can be an entrepreneur and also an activist. Just ask Zenat Begum, the founder and owner of Playground Coffee Shop, which used to be a hardware store in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, that was run by her family.

When Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the city this summer, Ms. Begum assembled supply kits for participants. In June, to help with the city’s escalating hunger problem, she established a community fridge initiative that provides fresh, free produce. Ms. Begum also runs a free library and a community organization out of Playground.

ImageMs. Begum stocks her community refrigerator with produce, and she has a greenhouse in the works. 
Ms. Begum stocks her community refrigerator with produce, and she has a greenhouse in the works. Credit…Roshni Khatri for The New York Times

With the holidays approaching, Ms. Begum plans to distribute 200 boxes of essentials, including coats and books, to Black, Indigenous and other people of color who are residents of Bed-Stuy and are financially struggling. She will also organize several free or sliding-scale meal pop-ups next month.

Ms. Begum, 27, lives among 45 plants in a brownstone apartment within walking distance of the coffee shop.

SUN, WATER, MUSIC I wake up in my apartment in Bed-Stuy to the utmost gratitude and gratefulness that I am safe and starting my day with myself and rituals. I start every morning opening the blinds to let the sun pour into my home. I greet my plants and water them while a record is on or a mix from my friend Sterling. I toast a cinnamon raisin bagel to complement my drip coffee.

BODY AND MIND I recently started training with Thea Hughes, a fitness instructor who guided me into a practice of strength training and mobility. Usually, I FaceTime my friend Krisitia, who lives in Miami. Our friendship in this time period has consisted of holding each other accountable while checking in to become the best versions of ourselves.

THE GIG I drive, walk or bike to Playground Coffee Shop. Walking through Bed-Stuy has become a ritual for myself as I wave to my neighbors or smile at dogs sniffing their way through town. I usually walk through Herbert Von King Park to catch a performance happening in the amphitheater.


Ms. Begum lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, within walking distance of the coffee shop. Credit…Roshni Khatri for The New York Times

On Sundays, my friend and shop manager Sam and I connect about our week while exchanging relationship advice, administrative details and, obviously, a ’fit check to make sure our “drip,” or outfits, come correct.


“I’m always on top of keeping our block clean.”Credit…Roshni Khatri for The New York Times

I check on the community fridge outside of the shop that is cleaned and stocked by our volunteers. I restock and reorganize our “Take One, Leave One” library and give a nice sweep. I’m always on top of keeping our block clean. I get a text from my friends to hang out, I ask for an iced cortado with oat milk, to go.


The coffee shop’s “Take One, Leave One” library.  Credit…Roshni Khatri for The New York Times

CHICK TALK I pop into our local community garden on 100 Quincy Street to drop off compost from my fridge and the shop. I place the buckets in the back by the chicken coop. I always have a banter with the chickens where I “sillily talk” about the day ahead. After our deep conversation, I walk to meet my friends.


Dropping off compost from the coffee shop to some grateful, chirping chickens. Credit…Roshni Khatri for The New York Times

CHAT AND CHEW My friends Ridah and Aldo join me at Bed-Stuy Fish Fry to pick up a combo meal, or a fried shrimp and fries from Shipwreck Seafood Boutique. We smoke on my stoop while we watch passers-by on my block.


Ms. Begum, right, having an al fresco lunch with her friend Ridah Farooqui. Credit…Roshni Khatri for The New York Times

FAMILY CHECK-IN I always FaceTime my sisters Rifat and Nisat, who live in Park Slope with my parents. They toss the phone between each other and my mother, who expresses the details of her day with a feature of Luna, the house cat.


On a FaceTime chat with her sister. Credit…Roshni Khatri for The New York Times

AGENDA I sit and go through my emails and create an agenda for the week ahead. I always write everything down. I go through various Instagram DMs and make sure to respond to anyone I haven’t already. My friend Elle and I always call each other to catch up on the week.

DINNER AND A SHOW I am eating a lot of meals that I learned to make during quarantine. My go-to is a shallot pasta, stir-fry or even roasting a bed of veggies. I have been bingeing “Girlfriends” on Netflix, so I make some time to watch a few episodes while eating my dinner.

INTENTIONS, SET I burn a candle and light incense, using a Bakhoor burner from Balady Market. After I cook my meal, I lay out my crystals and sage to pray to my ancestors. Right before I sleep, I think about an affirmation my friend Edward has helped me integrate into my practice. I manifest one goal that I want to make happen and set my intentions for the future, because we can do nothing without intention.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Zenat Begum on Instagram @zenatbegum.

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