First Look: Freedom a la Cart Café + Bakery
Freedom a la Cart celebrates the grand opening of its first café and bakery today, Monday April 5.
The nonprofit catering company that works with survivors of human trafficking initially shared plans in late 2019 to expand with their own cafe Downtown. After months of COVID-related delays, CEO Paula Haines says finally opening the space is a dream come true.
The Downtown address at 123 E. Spring St. checked a number of boxes for Freedom a la Cart. When trying to decide where to relocate, the organization did a location analysis and found that Downtown best fit the bill when it came to accomplishing three major goals: serving survivors of sex trafficking, being a centralized location for a catering operation, and having foot traffic and customers at the ready for breakfast and lunch.
In the kitchen, Freedom a la Cart is flexing its creative muscle for its new cafe menu.
“We wanted to whole a new menu, to bring a whole new list of flavors and items to the community, so we kept that elevated feel that we use in our catering and just transferred that over to the cafe menu,” says Carissa Martin, Freedom a la Cart’s social enterprise director.
Freedom worked with their first chef, Lara Pipia, as well as current Executive Chef Laurie Sargent to bring some unique, bold flavors to the menu.
With Sargent’s background in baking, Freedom’s cafe will offer a number of baked goods and pastries. While the cafe menu is set, Haines says pastries will be an area where they can play, expanding the selection and offering daily specials.
For breakfast, the cafe offers eats like the Rosemary Breakfast Sandwich, with house-made lemon rosemary breakfast sausage, Bacon Quiche, Trout Toast and more.
Bowls, sandwiches and salads complete the menu that Martin says is a balance of healthy with a little bit of indulgence. The Roasted Carrot Salad with farro, spiced carrots, feta spread, herbs, chai-soaked raisins, pistachio and crispy chickpeas is a favorite of Haines. The Don’t Judge Me Sandwich, with roasted chicken, french onion and garlic aioli, Swiss cheese, arugula and crumbled potato chips on a semolina bun, is an homage to retired judge Paul Herbert who founded CATCH court, which provides programming and support for victims of human trafficking, and is an organization that Freedom a la Cart works closely with.
In addition to the new cafe and bringing their catering and Freedom at Home operations under one roof, the Downtown space is allowing the organization to expand the number of women it employs and supports through its new Freedom Center.
Haines says they have 28 women on payroll now, half of whom take part in their programming, and hope to bring that total up to 35 by year’s end. The organization was able to support 420 women last year through its services, a number Haines hopes to quickly grow to 600 plus with their new Freedom Center located on the second floor of the building.
The upstairs includes open concept workstations and a survivors lounge, where women can simply spend time, or grab a laptop and work on their resume or job search.
There are smaller meeting rooms where women can meet in groups or one-on-one for on-site trauma counseling, a new service the organization has added. Freedom has also created peer support groups that focus on survivor helping survivor.
A larger community room provides space for programs from self-defense classes and trauma yoga classes, to workforce development and parenting classes. The room is also available for rent with catering available, which Haines sees as another source of revenue for the nonprofit.
The Freedom a la Cart Café + Bakery is open from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, visit freedomalacart.org.
All photos by Susan Post