Crowdfunded shop trades beyond social convention

A new shop in Warren Street looks at first sight like yet another fashionable cafe with its window display showing off an array of quiches, cakes and a shiny new coffee machine. But the new venture promises to be very different from its neighbouring businesses in many different ways.

Two people outside shopfront.

Amanda and Sonia have opened their shop in Warren Street with finance from a crowdfunding campaign.

Coffee, Cake & Kisses was started by Amanda and Sonia and financed with support from a crowdfunding appeal which drew in more than 400 people and over £35,000 towards the project.

“With everything for sale except for the staff, Coffee, Cake & Kisses celebrates bonds between people, and its common expression, the kiss. We are the place to build all kinds of relationships, and to explore all aspects of them. An accessible place for all people, purposefully inclusive and welcoming of all genders, sexuality, relationship models and lifestyles,” is how the project was described.

The Kickstarter campaign was a huge success and they raised the money in just four weeks.

It was early last year that they found the shop in Warren Street owned by the Fitzrovia Trust, a local building charity which has a small portfolio of mixed-use properties for social housing and shops of value and use to the community.

The shop initially opened as a Christmas pop-up in December with just a small space while the rest of the store was being constructed. Then in January the ground floor was fully opened for “shop warming, meeting the neighbours and getting the good vibes going”, says Sonia in an interview with Fitzrovia News.

“Everyone’s been so very welcoming, with people bringing us cards and flowers and saying we are just what has been missing in the area. It’s such a joy and privilege to join the vibrant Fitzrovia community.”

The project will go beyond labels of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and will launch fully in February. “The month of love,” says Sonia.

“It’s a cafe, a bookshop, and so much more. We sometimes refer to the place as a ‘social design space’. The architect and the designers are the people themselves, designing their own lives and relationships, forging new models of relating and moving beyond established paradigms,” she says.

Modelled on a home, the ground floor features an accessible open-space communal kitchen, a brainchild of Amanda who says “the kitchen table is where most important conversations take place.”

The lower ground will be fashioned as a lounge and a meeting room and, if a lift can be installed, is hoped to become fully accessible to those less physically able.

In a take-away version, coffee, cake and kisses are available for events and functions, too. “Corporate catering with a difference,” says Sonia.

Coffee, Cake & Kisses, 54 Warren Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 5NN.

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