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Community Cafe: Trio try to start pay-what-you-can eatery

December 8, 2011

Community Cafe: Trio try to start pay-what-you-can eatery

Christi Brown is trying to start a not-for-profit, pay-what-you-can cafe somewhere in Downtown or Central El Paso that’s modeled after community cafes in other cities.

“I read a book about one, and I couldn’t quite shake the idea,” Brown said. “We want to create a table where everyone can eat whether they can pay or not.”

It also has to be a place with great food to draw people who can pay so they can help subsidize the cost of feeding people who can’t pay, Brown said.

A meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday for anyone interested in helping start the Mustard Seed Cafe. It will be at the new El Paso Community Foundation meeting room on the ground floor of the Mills Building parking garage at 330 N. Oregon.

Brown, a stay-at-home mom and Christian, said the Mustard Seed Cafe will be a Christian outreach ministry, but it will not be affiliated with a church. Brown is married to Adin Brown, president of an El Paso commercial real estate company, Sonny Brown Associates.

“More than 20 percent of people in El Paso County don’t have a consistent and reliable means to feed themselves and their families, and that’s wrong,” Brown said.

Brown said she is getting consulting help from Denise Cerreta, founder of the One World Everybody Eats Foundation in Salt Lake City. Cerreta started a community cafe, the One World Cafe, in Salt Lake City in 2003, and now has the foundation to help others start community cafes.

Mustard Seed’s prospectus calls for serving a buffet for breakfast and lunch weekdays in its startup phase. Eventually it may be open for dinner, and on Saturdays.

“A lot of cafes turn out to be open all day and night. They are hip, neat places where (cultural) barriers can be crossed,” Brown said.

Besides serving food, the cafe would be a place for community groups to meet, Brown said.

Brown hopes to get someone to donate a restaurant-ready space for the cafe. It would employ a chef and manager, but would rely on volunteers for much of its labor, according to the cafe prospectus. People could pay for a meal by working at the cafe, Brown said.

Two of Brown’s friends, Patsy Burdick and Shelley Speicher, are helping with planning the venture.

Brown hopes the cafe could be in operation within nine months.

“We printed several thousand cafe (information) cards, and handed them out to everyone,” Brown said. “We want to build support for this in El Paso. It has to be a community effort.”

Written by Vic Kolenc, El Paso Times

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