How many of us regularly visit a local coffee shop to study, get some work done or see friends? In Seattle, Washington, the Q Café offers the perfect spot for people to come together, share tales about their lives, or simply work away on their computer. But there's a twist: it is completely non-profit.
Originally started by the church next door, the Q Café is a "neighborhood, community cafe," says Director, Brian Jensen. "It was intended to be a non-religious third place in our community" that could be used for multiple purposes by the people living in the area.
"It could be someone who daily is stopping in on their commute to work and we touch base and ask how their life is going and form those bonds and those connections ... having that be central to this space," elaborates Jensen.
The Q Café's day-to-day function is as just that, a café. Jensen explains that "we focus on having an espresso bar open throughout the course of the week where folks can come in, study, read, work remotely."
Though the espresso bar was originally staffed by volunteers, the café now employs baristas to ensure a consistently high quality for the customers.
"We also have an interest in providing space for patrons to engage [with] both live music and visual arts," says Jensen. Art by local artists adorns the walls on all sides, and there's a stage for performances by local musicians.
The café itself is a large, open space with chairs, tables and sofas. The ceilings are covered with lanterns and rope-lights that provide light for the café but also create a relaxing atmosphere for people as they enjoy their drinks.
As a community café, they've thought of everything, even offering a room specially for children. "We have nannies or young families that utilize the kids' room that we've set aside just for little ones to run around and make a ton of noise without disturbing the rest of the cafe patrons," Jensen explains.
The whole atmosphere is geared towards making everyone "feel immediately welcome, immediately comfortable and to feel as though this can be a space that they claim for themselves."
The Q Café's offerings do not stop there, however. It really is a space that is created for the community and can be molded into whatever it needs to be. "We really want people to have a sense of ownership when they're here," says Jensen.
The space can easily be cleared of chairs and tables, and instantly becomes a blank canvas, a space that can be used in whatever way is desired.
For example, they have weekly free movie nights. "We go out and purchase the rights to legally show movies, recent movies," Jensen explains. A projection screen comes down from the ceiling in the corner, chairs and sofas are rearranged to create more space and a popcorn machine is brought out, all to create a cinema atmosphere.
Community members can also rent out the space at very low cost and hold meetings, parties or even consignment sales. Lindsey Ismailova, 'The Leftovers Lady', was happy to find a space in which she could hold a consignment sale.
Ismailova says that the community atmosphere was exactly what she was looking for. "I knew that it was big enough and I knew I could rearrange things," she explains.
The Q Café is a nonprofit and donates 10 percent of profits to charity but its primary focus is on providing a space that can be enjoyed by anybody and everybody. Jensen explains that they see "people that are passing through whether they be transient individuals or some of our homeless community members. We're a space that will be hospitable and welcoming to everyone, whether or not you're buying a coffee."
The rewards of working at the café are not financially based, but rather come from getting to know people and seeing a community grow, emphasizes Jensen. "It's because, for those that are regulars in the cafe and those that continue to be a part of this space, we hear and we see on a regular basis, how much they appreciate, enjoy and are thankful for this space."
To learn more about the Q Café, you can visit their website. They also have a Facebook page, Twitter feed and Google Plus page, and you can see videos of some the live music performances on their YouTube page.
Follow Bus 52 on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bus52