What is a family café?

Updating this page on January 30, 2014

My family cafe project has changed because of time and money constraints. Now we are an « association » and we organize « cafés » with themes. Many of them have taken place in Orgeval but we hope to expand to other parts of the Yvelines. We use other people’s spaces and our favorite restaurant and tea salon in Orgeval, Carabistouilles.

I still secretly wish to have my own space one day but I’m very happy with my current life.

 

It’s very simple. A café where everybody is welcome with special attention to little ones. We want them to be safe as well as happy to be there. So not only a special space is dedicated to them, but they should be free to explore and move around safely.

I wish to create more than a café. A separate space should be reserved for various workshops. My special interests are education, language, art, music, cultural awareness, and food. The list is long and the possibilities are great.

Here is an article I wrote for the Message in Paris 2012 summer magazine. It will maybe give you a feeling of what I’m talking about.

Learning the Ropes

By Agnès Catton

9:50 AM. One cold and rainy morning, I approach 95 rue du Chemin Vert and see colorful big cursive letters: Le Petit Café du Monde Entier. The metal shutter is half open, the front door is unlocked, and the smell of fresh coffee is inviting me inside. Luisa Landa, the owner, is sitting behind the counter on her tall stool working on her computer. Le Petit Café du Monde Entier invites the whole world: nationalities, ages, sizes, languages to come spend some quality time in a café. Luisa, originally from Mexico, speaks at least 4 languages. Before opening her café in September 2011, Luisa worked in the international field. She lived a bit everywhere before falling in love with her French husband 10 years ago and then settled in Paris. They have 2 little franco-mexican girls.

I tuck my bag away, hang my coat on the rack and tie my apron in front…thinking… what has she got on the agenda for me today? I’m doing an internship in the café because I am planning to start a similar project.

When I first saw Luisa’s website, I thought: that’s exactly what I want to do! We had the same motivation. What to do with a toddler or a baby when you don’t want to stay home alone, when you want to meet people, when it’s a rainy day, when you want your child to meet other children, when you want to feel welcomed and not get looks when your baby starts to wail or your toddler has a tantrum, when you need to change a diaper preferably not on a table in front of everybody, when you want to talk about breast feeding, or when you want to nurse comfortably, etc.

Actually, I remember people asking her why she opened her café and her response brought tears to my eyes. It’s simply because she felt lonely: I can totally relate. Besides wonderful support groups like Message in Paris, there are few places to meet. I am bicultural, French-American, with a stronger penchant for America when it comes to educating children. I enjoyed every minute the early childcare playgroups organized with Message but once the children started school, the groups broke up, friends moved away and many moms went back to work. All of a sudden, I found myself home alone feeling like something was missing in my life. I called Luisa out of the blue one Monday morning after learning about her café at a Message Entrepreneur meeting. All that came out of my mouth was: I want to do the same thing. I knew it was going to be my next job.

During my stay there, I saw all different kinds of people, with or without children, come in and have lunch, coffee, and a piece of amazing chocolate cake, apple crumble or lemon cake (with fresh squeezed lemon juice). Everything is made right there in front of you. You feel like you are in her home. Luisa will come chat with you. She is interested in your life and her warm friendly smile and slight accent puts you at ease right away. Oh, and the children have a space to play in of course, but this is a café where parents can take a real break. Nobody will scold you if your child goes behind the counter or screams. The children are treated with warmth and respect.

Luisa’s café (it’s easier to say than Le Petit café du Monde Entier) has all different kinds of ateliers for parents and for children, separately and together. One Thursday morning, I volunteered to read due to a cancellation. A small group of 3 little girls under 2 and a baby sat with me on the green carpet and I read 4 little books to them. It was such a different experience from reading to my own children, who actually read to me now! I almost forgot (how could that happen?) the cuteness, the curiosity and even the smells of these little people. I find it very special being around other people’s children. You can observe and admire them differently and can love them just like your own.

Luisa’s café is also a boutique. I learned about environmentally friendly toys, books, and baby accessories as well as their prices (ouch!). I also discovered numerous regulations (ah, French administration) and paperwork. Starting an enterprise has its stressful moments. A metal shutter can break down sometimes and drive you nuts. Luisa decided to run this enterprise alone. Yet I realized that if that unwieldy metal shutter doesn’t close when it is dark out and you need to rush home, and you are alone to fix the problem, perhaps it’s better to have someone by your side.

My family life is top priority. A café for children may not make much money (DH’s concern) but for me, the quality of my time spent in such a venture makes up for the small profit. Seeing “tout le monde” find happiness at Luisa’s café is just pure bliss.

2 réflexions au sujet de « What is a family café? »

  1. Hi Agnes, David here (David, Ruth and Ethan and Charlie).

    There are lots of very successful businesses like this, making lots of profit as well from what we could tell, in the Eastern Suburbs in Sydney. In particular, check out Clodeli in Clovelly, you can find it on Google. There are several others that marry « children’s books store and library » with vibrant cafe. They are all rammed constantly… And are wonderful for families (Ruth spent much time there). I can’t imagine for one second that they’d oppose helping you if you reach out to them as you’re 12,000 miles away!

    In terms of environment, you just need to find an area with the right demographics, ideally with people who have a ‘non-Paris’ point of view on kids (stereotypically speaking), and you can’t go far wrong!

    On a final note, you may have heard, we’re leaving! Off back to the UK in April. So hopefully we’ll see you before we go.

    Take care and good luck with the venture! Cheers, D

    J'aime

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