Café Esperanza builds community with pay-what-you-can model

June 24, 2022 - Mackenzie Coombs

Cafe Esperanza is a pay-what-you-can café. These cafes are popping up in many locations all over the United States. The restaurant-style cafe is a proven method amongst other non-profits. The main goals of this type of non-profit are to help alleviate food insecurity in the community. Bringing people together encourages forming connections and a profound sense of community.

Emily Wolfe is the Executive Director at Cafe Esperanza. Her role is mainly focusing on fundraising and the day-to-day operations. She’s always lending a hand in the kitchen, washing dishes, cooking, and volunteering. Wolfe works alongside her mother, Mary Wolfe, who is the founder of the cafe.

“She had the vision to open this cafe about nine years ago. I joined her when a board was created, and we’ve both worked together to make the cafe happen,” Wolfe said about the beginning of the cafe. “She heard about an organization called One World Everyone Eats, which is where we are members of the organization. They give us guidance and support to pay-what-you-can cafes.”

Around the country, there are around 50 open cafes. Many cafes are just now opening back up after the pandemic. These can range from coffee shops to weekly pop-up shops. But Cafe Esperanza falls somewhere in between. They focus on their community and the demographics of the neighborhood. The most important goal of the cafe is to make sure the community is fed.

“We are a place where you have choices because having a choice in what you eat gives some dignity to someone who can’t pay.”

These kinds of cafes are important to have in the community. It allows for people to know that they have somewhere to eat if they’re not sure where their next meal is coming from. At Cafe Esperanza, it is their mission to make sure that no one goes hungry, and encourage anyone to come to visit their restaurant.

Moving forward, the cafe is always taking suggestions from its customers. In fact, the house that the cafe is located in, they want to expand their space. Eventually, they would like to have full-time employees with benefits. As Wolfe says, everyone and anyone is welcome to come visit the cafe!

How can you be involved with Cafe Esperanza? You can volunteer for a good cause by contacting them on their Facebook page. Overall, this is a good way to give back to the community and be a part of something bigger than the mission itself. It’s about giving back to those who need it most and making sure that everyone knows that there is a safe place to come back to.

Cafe Esperanza is located at 105 W Greenwich Street in Reading and is open Monday 7am to 3pm and Wednesday through Friday 7am to 3pm.