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The Camden Social is the restaurant Northsiders have been waiting for

Updated: Apr 25

By Azhae’la Hanson | Reporter | North News

Fonzie Mayfield is not stuck. He chooses the Northside. He understands the deficit and his place in it, and now with his business, he is building a weapon against it.

Mayfield and his wife Kathryn purchased the former Camden Tavern and Grill in April, changed the name to The Camden Social, and now run it as a full-service restaurant and cocktail bar. The new menu features healthy options and the honey-hot salmon is a dish in demand.

The Camden Social has emerged as an evening social scene, a rare gem on the Northside where patrons can get a sit- down evening meal. Karaoke fans can sing their hearts out there every Friday night, get a good dose of old school R&B on Saturday nights, and, coming soon, step the night away on Thursday nights.

The Mayfields say they want the community to know that every decision they make is for the betterment of the community. Community is a value that runs deep for the two.

“We want to elevate the social experience for the community members here,” Fonzie Mayfield said. “They have been waiting so long for something like this. I have been waiting so long for something like this.”

From the time Mayfield was a young boy, he was a dreamer and grew up wide- eyed to his surroundings in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wis. He became interested in business as he came to understand the power that money had on the socio- economic situation of both himself and his community versus other, more wealthy communities.

He paid attention to who had control of money and resources and noticed it was almost always someone who didn’t look like him.

He says in his childhood, you didn’t know if you were a “have not,” because the hand you were dealt was just the way that it was. Mayfield carried these two juxtapositions of understanding the deficit in his community and being stuck in that deficit.

Upon graduating high school, Mayfield made his way to Minnesota and called the Northside home in 2015 with his wife Kathryn. Here, he began to break through those juxtapositions.

For a while, Mayfield worked in non- profits with at-risk youth, but he couldn’t shake his entrepreneurial spirit. He wanted to surpass being a mentor and become someone who brings opportunities and exposure to the community.

As a native Milwaukeean, cigar culture was one of the things that Mayfield missed most about home. That became one of Mayfield's first businesses, A.L.L.U.R.E Cigars. After mastering the craft of his handmade cigars, he still lacked the space where people could gather. He attributed the birth of his business to the “lack of places to go,” and this greatly impacted his decision to purchase the Camden Social earlier this year.

 “That seems to be the unfortunate thing for Minnesota,” he said. “There are not enough spaces that represent Black culture. Not only are there not enough spaces in the state, but in our own backyard on the Northside, places to sit down and eat are very rare, which is what makes the Camden Social so special.”They are among the early stages of their journey to become a community staple and the Mayfields have faced the challenge of proving others wrong both inside and outside of the community.

Mayfield was told by a customer that “the hood can’t have nice things.” The Mayfields want to challenge the viewpoint that outsiders have of the Northside, but are very aware that there is work to be done with the mentality that we have about our own communities.

The owners are inspired by community members such as Houston White who share the vision of having spaces over North where people can live, work, an play without leaving their neighborhood.

There’s more to the Camden Social than just sit-down service. To Kathryn Mayfield, the lack of space for people in the community contributes to the disunification of its members and is a huge problem on the Northside. If people have no place to socialize and get to know their neighbors, they don’t. The Mayfields hope the Camden Social is going to be one of the remedies to this problem.

They hope to break from the Camden’s previous reputation as a tavern and grill and have a fresh start as a restaurant and cocktail bar with a full-service menu where the community and fellow cigar enthusiasts can come for a smoke, a drink, a laugh, and some great food.

“I look forward to the day not to say I told you so but to show what we’re capable of and being consistent in our efforts to give back and give more to this community,” Fonzie Mayfield said.

They hope a fresh coat of paint and top service is a good start.

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