Creating a ripple effect
Entrepreneurs expanding café hope to build community ties
Local coffee shop owners are preparing to scale up and transition Ripple Cafe from Caribbean restaurant pop-up to permanent meeting spot at Ashmont T station.
For the past year, Elle Ducheine and James Guerrier ran their self-built coffee cart from inside Taste of Eden Caribbean restaurant in Codman Square. Now, thanks to personal savings and $25,000 to be raised through their GoFundMe page, the pair are preparing for expansion, moving into the cafe space recently vacated by Flat Black coffee shop in the Carruth Building on Dorchester Avenue, where they hope to serve locally-sourced refreshments, including coffee, seasonal smoothies and pastries.
“We want Ripple Cafe to be a warm and welcoming place, like a third space, so when you’re not at home or at work you’re here,” said co-owner Ducheine, who was inspired by the inviting atmosphere of Central Perk, the hangout in the 1990s sitcom “Friends.” She hopes this location beside Ashmont Station, which serves over 17,000 commuters a day, can become an inspirational community hub for business or relaxation, a place where locals can and enjoy a cup of sustainably sourced coffee from Somerville-based Counter Culture coffee roasters, which also provided the couple with much of their barista training.
Initially, Ducheine and Guerrier wanted to open their stall in the downtown area, but permits were difficult to obtain and the entrepreneurs were keen to get up and running as soon as possible, said Ducheine. Hopa Bailey, a friend’s mother and owner of Taste of Eden restaurant, offered them use of a seating area in her predominantly take-out establishment. This is where the couple first learned how to efficiently run a coffee shop.
“It was a great learning curve … a way of getting the kinks out,” said Ducheine about starting their business small and learning how to get orders out quickly and correctly with limited equipment, space or staff. Ducheine promised to maintain their high-quality service and to ensure Ripple Cafe runs efficiently on a larger scale.
The pop-up is also where they built a loyal, diverse following, said Ducheine, and they got to know their customers well — personal connections she does not want to lose when the newly renovated retail space opens.
“We never want to lose that intimacy,” said Ducheine, “of getting to know our customers, more than just knowing their order and their first name.”
It was a customer who first told the couple about the space on Dorchester Avenue. But it wasn’t until Jenn Cartee, executive director of Greater Ashmont Main Street, an organization that supports and connects local businesses, approached them with plans to operate at the location that Ducheine and Guerrier seriously considered the move.
Up until that point, Ripple Cafe had been entirely self-funded, through savings and working second jobs. “We really did bootstrap this ourselves,” said Ducheine. Now, the couple is raising $25,000 via a GoFundMe page, and have collected more than $3,000 in the first 16 days. Ducheine said they have been inspired by the “amazing outpouring of generosity” they have received. She continues to contribute personal savings to the expansion project, while Guerrier is working in property management and earning money gigging as a musician, as well as finishing his degree in finance at University of Massachusetts Boston.
“We are super grateful for all of the help we’re getting,” said Ducheine.
If renovations are completed on time, the new cafe will be open in the second week of October. The owners have signed a three-year lease, which should be plenty of time for the cafe to, as Ducheine said, “have a ripple effect on the community and give people the experience of a warm, welcoming and kind place to be.”
On the web
Find Ripple Cafe on Facebook: www.facebook.com/RippleCafeBoston
Follow Ripple Cafe on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ripple_Cafe
Ripple Cafe’s GoFundMe campaign: www.gofundme.com/ we039re-moving-cafe-renovations