Experience Historic Black Miami at The Copper Door B&B

When most of us think of vacationing in Miami, we’re lured to South Beach. The luxury cars with music blasting, the crowded beaches filled with people adorning vibrant swim gear, and rows of restaurants competing to have the best and largest frozen cocktail at happy hour prices. But just across the bridge from the bustle is the Historic Overtown district of Miami. This area is known for Miami’s rich Black history, which makes it the perfect home for The Copper Door B&B, Miami’s only bed and breakfast. It also happens to be Black-owned.

A Cultural Side of Miami

The Copper Door B&B is located in the perfect place to explore Miami’s Black history and future. The Historic Overtown district was where Black and Latinx travelers spent their vacation during the Jim Crow era. The area had its own cultural movement similar to the Harlem Renaissance that attracted Black artists and celebrities to work there. Owners Jamila Ross and Akino West intentionally wanted to create a space for travelers looking for a cultural, educational, and lowkey experience that was not the traditional “turn-up” you get with Miami Beach. “We encourage our guests to spend time on Saturday mornings at the flea market in Little Haiti or take a trip to Little Havana. We encourage our guests to go to historic Virginia Key Beach as a supplement or something different than Miami Beach,” Ross said. Virginia Key Beach is a historic Black beach that only Blacks and Latinx residents and travelers could enjoy during Jim Crow. “So these are the types of opportunities that we like to expose our guests to all backgrounds because what everyone is finally understanding is that Black culture and Black history is very much American history,” she shared.

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A Childhood Dream Realized

Overtown is the perfect location to give their guests this experience, but Ross shared that the local experience is the fabric of bed and breakfast culture. “I think just like in bed and breakfast culture in general, that tends to be kind of like the idea that you go in wanting to live like a local, wanting to go to the small little shop, wanting to be where the locals hang out. Like it’s this opportunity for you to step outside of your day-to-day and experience how other people live, “she shared. It’s an experience she often had with her mother, adamant about giving the child experiences that she never had. At an early age, the Yonkers, NY native would travel the United States with her mother, and they would stay at bed and breakfasts in different towns. Later in life, she took a part-time job at a bed and breakfast as she finished her culinary schooling. As Ross and West started to build a life together, they also started looking for a space for a restaurant. As their search took longer than expected, they found a home to turn into an Airbnb, and as they gave the restaurant search one more try, they stumbled upon the vintage 1940s building that would become The Copper Door B&B and open its doors to guests on July 1, 2018. “It was just kind of one of those things where the stars aligned, and it was like, we decided to put the restaurant idea on hold and move forward to opening up the bed and breakfast,” Ross said. 

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 A Bed + Breakfast For The Culture

If you’ve been to a bed and breakfast, you’ll typically see white-owned mansion-styled lodging, guest rooms filled with floral wallpaper, bedding, and antiques, and a communal breakfast in a Victorian-styled dining room. The Copper Door B&B has found a way to implement parts of the bed and breakfast culture into the space but stay true to the 80-year-old building’s Miami roots. “Many of our select rooms have floral wallpapers, but they’re tasteful, and they’re fun, and they’re not on all four walls,” Ross adds jokingly. Ross shared that she leaned on her Millennial tastes to find inspiration for the rooms like curtains and antique furniture. “We walked into the space, we found furniture pieces that we ended up re-sanding and staining because the story of this particular space told us the path that we needed to go versus the other way around where, you know, we were going to make it what we wanted it to be,” she explained.

During the pandemic, Ross and West leaned on their culinary roots to increase revenue when occupancy was low. The couple was able to reimagine a restaurant concept idea they planned to build pre-pandemic into a to-go food experience. They created a pop-up concept called Rosie’s. “We were able to invest in a temporary space and outdoor space, and Rosie’s kind of progressed slowly as the pandemic did in terms of like, um, going from to-go to dining outside,” she shared. The menu is centered around comfort food because the couple felt that everyone needs a soul food breakfast like chicken with cheesy grits. “Like the hardships that were happening in our community and in the world, led us to this place of comfort food. As young entrepreneurs, we kind of like to gain a pulse and then and then follow suit,” Ross said. She believes that using our talents and passions to create solutions for the problems in our world or community makes a recipe for entrepreneur success.

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