‘Sonder’ is one of those words you don’t hear often. It’s a noun, and it means, “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness.” And it feels sort of right that this word would be used to describe the experience of going to a coffee shop. Coffee shops are universal meeting places, places you can sit, watch people come in and out, meet new friends, and contemplate the pace of life.
Shanita Nicholas and Amanda-Jane Thomas are the co-owners of Sip & Sonder in Inglewood in Los Angeles. They chose to incorporate the word ‘sonder’ into the name of their coffee shop because their space is SO MUCH more than just a place to get coffee. It’s a neighborhood meeting zone, a shop that residents can claim as their own. It’s meant to reflect the needs of the community they’re in.
I first chatted with Shanita and Amanda in 2018, where they shared their initial mission for Sip & Sonder. Shanita and Amanda met in New York, working as lawyers at a firm in Manhattan. Quickly they discovered that their dreams, although seemingly dissimilar, actually aligned perfectly. Together, they dreamed big and decided to combine their visions and open up a coffee shop in California.
Before they ever opened or served coffee, Shanita and Amanda focused on community and place-making. They started the LA Black Investors Club, bridging the gap between Black creators and access to capital. They partnered with local businesses, folks who later become their neighbors. And they continue to operate their space with an ever-evolving lens, focusing on what they need, what their community needs, right now, in real-time.
In a way, ‘sonder’ is the perfect word to attribute to them. They’re always looking outward, always discovering something new—even in this conversation. This is an interview to listen to that’ll make you feel rejuvenated and motivated. Hopefully, it’ll encourage you to look outward and wonder about the complex lives of others. Here are Shanita and Amanda: