I’m the Office Manager of Cafe Gratitude LLC, based in San Francisco with (a year ago) eight restaurants serving not only incredible world famous 100% organic vegan healthy/healing food and a commitment to sustainability, but a unique and groundbreaking business model. Cafe Gratitude is currently about 8 years old, has bloomed into a household name in the bay area, and become a staple for raw foodists and those who are passionate about nutrition as a source of healing. The business philosophy in Cafe Gratitude is one that I will take with me forever. Owners Terces and Matthew created the flagship cafe without knowing that such a risky and unreasonable mission would become so big, so spread out, and so contagious. Since the very beginning Cafe Gratitude’s mission has been to create an environment for work as a source of awakening. Let me explain what I mean by awaken:
Through Cafe Gratitude I’ve been able to recognize my own filters, my perceptions, and create a method for changing them in a way that has me still have authenticity in my perspective. This creates a self-empowered choosing of what I see, feel, and believe. Working with others in this environment where we all hold each other accountable for what we are committed to has been a transformative experience for me on so many levels. Coworkers hold me to my highest, push me to my limits, and allow for my fullest self expression through maintaining a safe space of love and acceptance.
Working with this community over the past five years has hands down changed my life. Never before have I been so conscious of my own power, felt so self expressed, recognized my self-created obstacles, and felt so ready to participate in the world as an activist. I have so much to say about this community, this philosophy, and all of the work that I’ve done in creating a life and a mission that is aligned with what I am committed to. I’ve found a community that is founded in a sort of love that is not all gushy good-feely… but honest and with often hard conversations. The conversations that I get to have with people in this community are miraculous, and so deeply challenging. This has truly become home for me.
So to bring you to where I am now… see me now crouched over a bankers box filled with files from 2004 sorting out what I should throw out and what we must keep as a sort of time capsule. Zoom out a bit and you see that my office is completely filled with these boxes. Zoom out further and you see that there’s marks in the carpet where four other desks were once in the office. Unemployment claims are sitting on the single remaining desk. The blinking light on my phone indicates messages from managers of the cafes needing I.T. support, or final paychecks for staff members, brokers asking for info for transferring accounts, or Matthew and Terces finding out how far along I am in the closing process. Zoom out further and you’ll see that the Central Kitchen is a ghost town with just two bakers and two prep chefs downstairs hustling to make everything possible for the five remaining locations. Outside there’s a for sale sign on the building.
Cafe Gratitude LLC is closing, and it’s been quite a process. After a series of aggressive lawsuits and eight years on a financial thin wire serving the community, we’re closing our doors and transferring three of the cafes that we are committed to salvaging from the continuing loss into three independent LLCs. From the public perspective, this means that three cafes are staying open and everything is fine. Behind the scenes where I’m sitting now, my world is collapsing as everything that I’ve built is being torn down, and I am supporting the building of a whole different company structure with three separate businesses, which is wonderful, refreshing, scary, and overwhelming.
I am on the biggest roller coaster of my life, and for the first time, I haven’t built a safety net below me. I know that at the end of this LLC, which I am taking apart brick by brick, is the end of my job and professional connection with Cafe Gratitude. After five years I feel a sense of readiness for this transition in my life, as well as a good bit of fear, worry, and loss. This end is both abrupt in my sudden realization that the company needed to close, while also being drawn out and painfully slow (This is now month six of this closing process). Not having work to move into next is new to me, and it’s both freeing and worrying. I moved to the bay area for my Masters, was drawn into Cafe Gratitude, and now I’ve got a cliff end and I’m not sure what I’m jumping into next.
Right now though, I’m conscious to what an incredible number of potent lessons I’ve come through in this process. It’s one thing to shift my attention to gratefulness when I have a job of my dreams, working with my best friends, with the best food in the world. It’s a new lesson in creating my own experience of the circumstances when I’m losing my job, my friends are all being laid off, and I’m now needing to cover for four different jobs at once while closing a mega company and opening three new companies simultaneously. Life is great! Life is great! I am generating what I am committed to feeling, and now “life is great” is actually completely authentic to me. Life IS great! What a great lesson to learn! What crazy new opportunity is now possible through this transformation of the community!?
And it truly IS great. Former coworkers of mine are now able to grow where there wasn’t really a space to grow at Gratitude. The three remaining locations are strong, with so much opportunity. The little model that once worked for the original cafe and then exploded into eight wasn’t sustainable… and now the three new businesses get to create a workable and custom setup for themselves. My life is an open canvas for me to paint, and this website is the genesis of this, the cause I am committed to next. This all wouldn’t be possible without this dramatic series of events.
All in all, I mostly these days feel overwhelmed to the point of laughter. It is truly ridiculous what I and my coworkers have needed to hold throughout this process from the lawsuits to the closure of our home. It’s been so dramatic that I’ve just burst into laughter at the ridiculousness of it all. This has actually been my best medicine. Not taking myself or the situation too seriously has been my saving grace. My cat Baxter reminded me of this this evening when he was oblivious to a big patch of fuzz on his face for a good hour tonight. Thank you Baxter, you are so wise.