Feeding the soul – the cafe where customers pre-pay for future diners
AT Labyrinth Holistic Café customers can pay in advance for a hot drink or a slice of cake to feed hungry diners in need of help. Deborah Bailey-Knibbs, the woman behind the not-for-profit business tells Caroline Osbeldiston why we should all give back.
What made you decide to set up Labyrinth?
Bit of a long story and I will cut it as short as I can. We used to have a retail shop, that did all the books and the crystals and the incense and that was meant to be a money making shop but it didn’t.
We’d seen our takings go up and up and up and then overnight, literally, they just went down and down and down and stayed there. It got to the point where we’d thrown all the money we had at it and we decided we couldn’t do it any more, we would have to close.
We told all of our lovely customers we were going to close and we literally had tears and tantrums and we couldn’t fathom it. They were saying “where are we going to go?” and it suddenly became obviously what we’d become is this meeting place where everybody would gather.
We realised that is what we become and basically we are here but the reason we set up was because people didn’t want us to close.
How has business been since you launched?
A rollercoaster is the best word I can use. It took a lot of setting up and it has changed so much, in so many ways but not in others. We have had three different menus to go with customer demand but that’s what we are here for.
We originally were not 100 per cent gluten free. When we did, that boosted us again. We won a national award in November in recognition for our menu and the work we are doing with the dietary requirements. It has been up and down, crazy, but the one thing is has never been is worrying.
Do you run the cafe on your own?
No, I have my husband who is the coffee wizard and who generally takes the mick out of customers. Lorraine, who is our amazing book lady, and John, who is Lorraine’s husband, is my right hand man in the kitchen. It is two couples, we are very good friends and it makes life a lot easier.
What made you decide to help people in need?
It was a no brainer really. If we are doing something that is providing food, ultimately there is either going to be something that needs using up or we have a wall which people put Post-it notes on, where somebody will buy two cups of coffee, one for the wall and one from themselves.
There are people out there, and they are not always homeless, we get people in here on zero hour contracts.
We aren’t just giving away the rubbish at the end of the day. When they come in and ask for a bacon sandwich, I would cook it like I would for you. It’s not just our leftovers. Even if we haven’t got Post-its on the wall, we would still do it.
Have you been helping the community since you first started?
From day one. It was part of the inception, it is one of our core values. It was to have this facility for people to come in and use.
What has been the response like from the people you are helping and your customers?
Amazing. We get nice customers in here. The response is usually if they ask what might be going on there and we tell them, they would put something on the wall.
Sometimes we get overlooked for novelty for what we do but I just want people to come and support us.
What would you like to be done to help the people you support?
There are far too many people out there for the wrong reasons. I know lots and lots of ex-military and these guys put there life of the line for us and we can’t even treat them right.
We all have the responsibility that we don’t use. I can’t do any more than I am, wish I could but I don’t have that ability. It should be about giving back.
CONTACT: Labyrinth Holistic Cafe, Skinner Street, Stockton, TS18 1DY
Mon – Fri: 9.00 – 4.30ish, Saturday: 9.00am – 4:30ish, Sunday: closed.