Deaf managed i love coffee shop opens with a buzz in Cape Town

CAPE TOWN, June 7 (ANA)  – The i love coffee shop in Cape Town was abuzz with deaf people signing and greeting each other, and hearing-abled people getting involved in the conversations at the shop’s official opening on Tuesday.

Inside the coffee shop, set inside the X Body Fitness gym in Claremont, the two worlds met with ease, aside from a few initial bumbles which were deftly navigated with an interpreter’s assistance or with a cellphone used for texting.

Colourful macaroons and cakes decorated the countertop in front of the espresso machine, while a red ribbon hung overhead. The i love coffee staff wore black t-shirts with their logo emblazoned on it, consisting of the sign language symbol for “I Love You”.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille entered the shop wearing the same black t-shirt in support of the shop, stopping to take a few photographs, to tweet, and to warmly greet the guests before the opening speeches commenced.

i love coffee founder Gary Hopkins welcomed the Premier and guests in South African Sign Language before transitioning to speech. Co-owner and sign language interpreter, Lesego Modutle, interpreted the speeches.

Hopkins, standing on an ottoman so the deaf members of the audience could see him easily, described how the concept for the shop started in November 2015 with a conversation with Western Cape DeafSA Provincial Director Jabaar Mohamed about how to create employment opportunities for deaf people.

He said the three deaf baristas who knew nothing about making coffee in the first place, Kaye-Lynne Goddard, Shanlee Arendse and Thembelihle Quzu, were selected out of 60 candidates and underwent intense training in a partnership with Tribes Coffee.

The deaf community, Hopkins said, was involved in the shop at all points of communication, strategy and development, from concept to barista training to implementation.
He pointed out that the black bricks which divide the shop from the gym were made by deaf construction workers, while some of the delicious goodies and amenities were provided by deaf chefs and business owners.

“It has been an incredible journey,” he said as he thanked all who came on board to assist him in bringing to life a dream to empower deaf people.

Zille then stepped onto the ottoman and said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here.” Taking the shop in, she added: “It is such a beautiful place”.

She highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship and job creation. “No one is here out of sympathy or pity. We are here to celebrate entrepreneurship and a great idea.”

It was very important to build an “inclusive society”, she said. Recognising sign language as a language in its own right, Zille said: “I have a deaf sister who is two years younger than me.  I regret not learning how to sign before.”  Zille said she was now learning how to sign.

Zille proposed that the deaf community in the city could meet her at the coffee shop once a month on a Saturday to discuss issues that affected them and she would respond to these issues in person. This offer was met with much applause.

Zille told the African News Agency (ANA) that this monthly gathering would commence in September, after the local government elections and during Deaf Awareness Month.

Hopkins handed Zille a pair of scissors, and Zille duly snipped the red ribbon, declaring the shop open. Soon afterwards, and with a little help from the baristas, Zille expertly ordered her cappuccino in sign language.

Guests mingled, enjoying communicating over a cup of coffee. “It’s a great idea” said performing artist Nicola Jackman. “It is the perfect bridge between hearing and deaf communities.”

Western Cape DeafSA Provincial Director Jabaar Mohamed said he was so surprised and pleased that the shop was set up so quickly in a matter of just a few months. “I am very proud, and look forward to seeing a deaf-owned coffee shop in the future”.

“I’m excited to be working here,” said Quzu. His colleagues Goddard and Arendse agreed with him.

“I’m very excited to see it all coming together,” Modutle told ANA as the first of the coffee shops guests trooped out.

“I am overwhelmed,” Hopkins added. “The opening went very well, beyond my wildest dreams.”

i love coffee is open Monday to Friday from 6am – 7pm.

– African News Agency (ANA)

Disclaimer: This story is pulled directly from the African News Agency wire, and has not been edited by Mail & Guardian staff. The M&G does not accept responsibility for errors in any statement, quote or extract that may be contained therein.

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