Facilitating a place for community

Facilitating a place for community

Yesterday morning at dawn before going out for a hike I was preparing a tortilla, I made a cake and I had made bread the night before and it’s a recurring theme, I have been dreaming so many times of having a little cafe or bakery. A place other’s would call their second home, a place to come to work, to meet new people, to listen to music, to listen to readings…a place to make friends! And also a place to come to when you first arrive in a new city, not to get a map but to get insights, to know where to go, where to buy a bike, to do a language exchange…I really love this idea of facilitating a place for community!

During the hike we didn’t speak much and for six hours my imagination went crazy making up a little coffeehouse, thinking about the marketing, the events, the logo, the menu…and of course the money needed to make to live. In my imagination it was all set in Barcelona, as it is the city I know best and have the most connections but I feel like it could be anywhere in the world.

The quarter where I worked in Barcelona – called Poble Nou – is an old industrial quarter close to the beach where thanks to low prices a lot of startups have settled and slowly (or at least that’s how it was six months ago) other places are coming in like yoga studios, design schools, advertising agencies….it’s becoming a very hip part of town and that’s where I imagined the little coffee house to be (it’s name could be something along the lines of ‘second home’, ’salón’, ‘the hideout’ so that people could ask ‘where are you’ ‘oh, i’m at my second home’ or names incorporating ‘bar’ like toolbar or taskbar or typebar (soemthing digital, it will be the place with the fastest wifi in town). I would like it to be a cosy place, an extension of our living rooms.

It will be easy home-made food with fresh, local, good ingredients that vary every day depending on the season and the offer at the market. You could have coffee, teas, sweets, scones, frittatas, fruit juices and smoothies and light lunches like a quiche, pasta, salads…something easy, not too elaborate but extremely good. Fresh bread and fresh fruit at all times of day and we are settled. I think that’s what I like so much about El Vecinal around CMI, it’s such basic but good food. You know what you get. And I really love their idea of the Friday burger after a week of healthy eating!

The coffee house is located opposite of a bicing station (it’s the bikes you can rent around the city with a card and a station is where you leave them off) and just around the corner of a metro station. From the outside there is a big glass window to look into the cofffehouse and right outside there are three steps but the steps are not for walking into the cafe but to sit on. It’s like three independent stesp (very big, maybe 2m long and 1.2m high) that are movable and a comfortable place to sit on sip your coffee and smoke and watch the passersby. There are bike racks to leave your bike without worrying it might get stolen and in the inside there are a couple of places to sit at big tables so eventually you get to share and talk to the person next to you and chairs and benches of all colors, it’s a mix and match. You walk into the cafe and you see the counter with cakes and cookies on the top and an open kitchen. There will be flour scattered around on the work tops.

And I imagine it to be modular, so that some parts can be closed off, tables can be moved to make space for a stage ecc because other than a place to eat it’s a place for discoveries. I could team up with the startups around who don’t have much money yet to get a big office so that the coffeehouse could be an extension of their offices, maybe a space they could close off for meetings, group lunches…or a room that we could close to invite a yoga teacher once a week. And the stage would be for Live music and three guitars standing around for you to play, Live readings and poetry slams and shelves on the walls filled with books in all languages (so as to facilitate tandem, bring in the french community for example and to empty my grandma’s attic from my boxes filled to the rim with books), and Game nights (the place would not usually be open at night, but there would be a trivial night or a sharade night) and board games that you can take out whenever you want.

On the walls there would be space to exhibit artworks from local artists that would change every month and give occasion to little vernissage / art shows.

As a place for first time settlers in the city, you could get all the advice, find a place to live, find a blackboard with spanish teachers, find a tandem language partner…and throughout the month there would be fun events to sign up to. I imagine inviting a guest cook for a theme night and then closing the place off for a intimate group that had to sign up and pay a little deposit upfront. This way it is like a private event and not a restaurant and there can be alcohol with no need for any licence. I imagine inviting my dad for something cool, my brother for an awesome pizza night, a mexican cook who is a friend….and they could be under the theme of ‘cena con amigos’. A dinner to make friends!

I came up with tons of ways to market it, to get the name out using channels known to me and connections that I have already set up. I think I would need to appeal to a young, hipster audience who has the money to pay for fresh food and coffee, who is looking for a place to work and who wants to follow a healthy eating style and show it off.

I am imagining taking a photo of the guests, publishing it on facebook and asking them to tag themselves, do checkins on foursquare for a cookie, write reviews for a coffee….and a little card to accumulate coffees that is handdrawn and features a lil drawing of the card holder (yes, this I really need to practice) to make it more personal. I would like to be able to remember names as they come in. In order to be able to calculate the meals and to bind people I could imagine something like a monthly subscription for lunch to a better price that the regular meal. After one month of getting great food and a nice smile around the corner of your office for a good price, why would you go back to finding something other than a sandwich every day or trying to cook something for you to take to work ? Or a preorder to get your lunch on time through the website as I used to do at PayPal. We worked on a huge technological campus and the cafeteria was open at certain hours always featuring 3 menus and a salad bar but before 11h you could acccess a wider menu on their website and order and pay up front to have your own self created pizza for example. That was aweome! You paid a bit more to get whatever you wanted and at the time you wanted it and they could plan ahead calculating the needs for ingredients better.

I imagine it to be open from 10 to 19h to be able to have an own life and also so that the event times can be exceptional and planned. On the weekends there could be a runner’s brunch as it is close to the water and hoards of fitness fans flock around there. You could come by metro, leave your stuff at the cafe, go for a run and then come back to have breakfast. Or I could team up with tour guides, tourist groups and others to do an organised meal. The quarter is pretty quiet on a saturday, I don’t think anybody would just walk by there.



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