Meal with wine? Try the charity shop


Changes in communal charity shops in recent years have included modernised outlets that look comfortably at home in the high street, retailing top brand names that attract the fashionistas.

Now mental health charity Jami has taken the concept a significant stage further by adding a café and meeting space to its Golders Green Road shop.

The plan is to open from breakfast until late evening and the café - being run by an independent company involving an ex-Ottolenghi chef - will be applying for a drinks licence.

Seating 35 inside and with additional tables on the street, it will offer "market kitchen" fare such as artisanal breads baked on site, fish kebabs and sharing platters. "Fabulous food that happens to be kosher," is how Jami chief executive Laurie Rackind sells it.

Fitting with the project's social enterprise credentials, the café seats have been either donated or reclaimed.

The motto will be 'sip, shop and share'

Customers will be able to purchase coffee for the needy and, over time, the plan is for Jami service users to be involved in the café's operations.

Jami has negotiated a share of food and drink turnover, rather than profit.

There is an "opening soon" sign outside the shop's formerly unprepossessing premises.

Away from the public gaze, work is continuing on the refurbishment of what will now be known as Head Room. The shop element will also have a more contemporary feel.

With flooring still to be laid, protruding wires, an absence of light fittings and just the very basics of what will be the café bar area, it is surprising to hear Mr Rackind describe the premises as "95 per cent finished" and set for opening next month.

It is doubtless time-saving that Jami has opted for the exposed brickwork look, Mr Rackind explaining that it is "easier for maintenance".

He goes on to expand on its modus operandi of "sip, shop and share. Sip is clearly the beverage intake, shopping is continuing to offer our sale of donated goods, albeit higher end and classier. The sharing is a really general concept in terms of getting the community to engage and enjoy the space."

Head Room will open six days a week and Mr Rackind anticipates an average day starting with "a low key coffee around breakfast time. There will be a bit more buzz at lunch, awareness courses going on through the afternoon and then a nice engaging atmosphere for the evening."

There might also be nocturnal courses for those who work or study during the day.

In its former life, the premises turned an annual profit of £10,000, notwithstanding the incalculable value of the involvement of service users in the shop operation.

"A high street shop is the most expensive real estate a charity has," Mr Rackind points out. His "optimistic" assessment is that the new set-up could make £50,000 for the charity in its first year.

He has wanted to do something like this for some time but feels more confident now "the stigma of mental illness has reduced".

This is evidenced by the fact that Jami now supports 1,000 people at any one time and that its staff has grown from five to 55 in the nine years since Mr Rackind joined.

It has a £2 million budget and, daring to dream, he says that an additional £1 million would enable it to employ psychologists, work with more young people, establish a nationwide presence and develop technology.

"Mental health support is needed by the whole community.

"At some point in your life you'll need it more than others. But everyone has to be aware of mental well-being."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive