A Bittersweet Goodbye (To The Park!)
As most of you probably know (unless you're a tourist using Apple Maps- it won't let me change my location!) Caffi Kiki has been running as a pop-up from Lakeside Cafe since March 2020, when I had the rug pulled from underneath me just when I was starting to finally feel like I'd "made it."
I had just been to the Snowdonia 360 launch and was spending every waking moment planning for Easter- redecorating, redesigning menus, marketing strategies...I had a full cafe the week before disaster hit, a big party and a few extra tables squeezed in. I had that warm fuzzy feeling that I get watching people celebrate in this environment that I've created- the bouzouki twinkling away in the background and the Ouzo flowing...I was buzzing, coming out of my first full winter and in the process of setting up a second business.(Dodged a bullet there!)
The following week the cancellations started coming in as people were starting to get nervous, so I changed bookings to takeaways at the last minute, giving people plates to take home as I was so unprepared! When Boris announced the two week lockdown I thought I would finally get a chance to catch up with everything! Anyway, we all know what came next. (A lot of comfort eating!)
I've been extremely lucky in that I've been able to keep working to some capacity through all of this. My takeaway service had incredible local support and I was also able to focus on other areas of my business that I never had time for (like the blog!) but one thing that's been hanging over me for the past year has been what to do with the cafe in the park.
Although I'm incredibly grateful to be able to use the space at Lakeside, it was never the plan to move there permanently. I couldn't justify reopening in the park while the 2m rule was in place, but at the same time I couldn't imagine being able to serve the amount of people that were trying to book Lakeside in the tiny pavilion even without Covid restrictions. I planned to try and juggle both, doing snacks, ice creams and cocktails in the park but when I realised I couldn't even find staff to cover my two nights a week at Lakeside*, I admitted that I just couldn't stretch myself that thinly. (Unfortunate in more ways than one.)
I was also feeling incredibly guilty that I was unable to provide a service in the park, knowing that my lease was a two way street and that the people of Blaenau expected and deserved someone who could commit more to the everyday running of the park.** I can't stress how grateful I am to have had this opportunity, to have had a reason to move back to my hometown, a relatively risk free environment to start my own business, and to feel part of this amazing community more than ever.
I'm absolutely heartbroken to be leaving the park, and have struggled to even write this post for the past few weeks. I've been emptying the cafe and realising more and more what it has meant to me. After traveling for so long after uni I didn't really think I would ever have something of my own (or if I even wanted to) This opportunity has made me grow so much. learning on my feet and also learning a lot about myself.
I've been looking back on some of my achievements over the last three years, reaching no.1 on Tripadvisor out of all the restaurants in Snowdonia National Park in less than a year of being open, being featured on S4C programmes Codi Pac and Heno, being invited onto BBC Radio Wales’ Mid Week Menu, being ranked by the Daily Post as the best place for Vegans to eat in Gwynedd, winning Lux Life Magazine’s award for North Wales best breakfast venue of the year in 2019, and just last week being named Greek Restaurant of the Year by Prestige Awards!
Ok shameless bragging is nearly over I swear, but the thing that I am most proud of is that after three years I'm not running back to the Alps (not yet, anyway!) but still trying to put down roots here! No matter how difficult things have been, nothing compares to the buzz of a busy Saturday night and after everything we've been through, seeing people eat, drink and celebrate fills my heart even more than it did last March!
I'm so excited to see what the next three years will bring! For now, I'll carry on popping up at Lakeside every weekend (maybe a few more days in the summer holidays) while still looking for the perfect place for Caffi Kiki to call home!***
Finally, I just want to say how grateful I am to everyone who has helped me get Caffi Kiki to where it is today, to Ffestiniog Town Council for giving me this unbelievable opportunity; to my amazing mum, not just for marrying a Greek but for teaching me to cook and run a business almost before I could walk! My Greek family for making me believe that food (specifically Greek food) is the most important thing in the world, and my dad for turning up to help me put it all together. I wouldn't have lasted a week without my incredible friends who have worked with me and taught me so much, and last but not least my lovely partner, my fake-Greek model, recipe tester and general life-saver!
Okay, I'll put the fake Oscar down now.
* If you have front of house experience (or are confident, outgoing and willing to learn!) and would like to join my team please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
** If you are interested in the opportunity or would like to know more about the lease please contact Zoe- email@example.com or feel free to ask me any questions!
***Know a place? I would love to hear about any new business opportunities!