In the beginning of 2017 I took over the operation of a pay-what-you-can vegan lunch café here in the heart of meat-and-potatoes Midwest America. On December first, I gave myself a daily blogging challenge to write about this café, to tell its story, and maybe figure out a little of my own story in the process. This is Post #16.
Nobody does this kind of work for the money.
The café earns enough to cover my basic household expenses: mortgage, utility bill, internet service, groceries. It is ramen profitable. But it’s not really sustainable. If I go away, it goes away.
My kid worked with me for the first six months as co-chef and baker, but by early summer they were pretty much over it. They didn’t like working in a church basement, didn’t want to start the day at 8 a.m., didn’t like the fluorescent lighting (who does?)
You know that feeling you get when you try to hold onto a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be there?
Yeah. Let it go.
Now they come in one day a week to do our baking. The rest of the time, it’s just me. Which, as I said, is not sustainable.
So as I round out my first year, I’m wondering how I might grow this little business into something more viable. More workable. More vital to the community. There are so many paths we could take. People have asked us to be open longer, to be open more days. To offer cooking classes, meal deliveries. To write a cookbook, create a line of carry-out meals, freezer meals, host farm-to-table dinners, cater parties, sell our food at local events.
Don’t overthink it, I’m being advised. Just pick one that resonates, and try it. See what happens.
So this week we’re catering a fundraiser. Next week we’re delivering vegan party trays for someone’s 40th birthday. And we’re starting to sell our cookies by the dozen. Baby steps, right? Nothing too overwhelming, because I don’t want to exhaust myself or lose the spark that makes it all work.
But will any of it, you know, work?
Too soon to say. None of it pays much yet. But the nice thing about living with a very small income is even a small bump provides a big bounce.
I guess we’ll find out in due time if it’s big enough.