Often a meeting space for business, study groups, or just a space to grab a coffee with friends or family, CafeNation has on its own terms has grown to
be a neighborhood institution in Brighton Center after nearly 15 years. Located right where the 57 bus picks up and drops off, this local cafe seems
to never have an empty seat inside when you peer through their giant windows. I sat down with Kris, the manager to the frontline staff, after running
into them at Matt’s Barber Shop. When I explained the concept of the Season of Giving, they were more than happy to set something up.
CafeNation has extensive options from baked goods, sandwiches, and caffeinated treats.
Kris has been part of the CafeNation team now for three years and when I began by asking how they have noticed community being fostered and made at CafeNation, they shared an extensive list. Kris, with the help of the kitchen manager, Rachel Rodriguez, and owner, Alvin Tsang, strive to make sure that the cafe is always having new and fresh take on dishes and drinks, experimenting with different types of lunch specials, to specialty drinks for all to try. (If you have not tried the Butterbeer Latte, you are missing out!) “We just want to make sure we are keeping our customers happy. This allows us to take risks with the menu, and if they aren’t well received, we try again. It gives us the opportunity to get creative.” And speaking of creative, CafeNation is a huge supporter of local artists and creatives. The walls of CafeNation are always decorated with photos, paintings, sketches, providing a space for local creatives to showcase and sell their work. There is even talk of expanding on their support to artists, “We have been looking into other ways we can support local artists, and may even start to bring in live entertainment.” While we speak, Kris is keeping a watchful eye on the happenings of the business. A line started to form and they take a moment to help out with the rush, and as customers put in and receive their orders, Kris began checking in with their staff. They made sure the person who worked the morning shift went home to get some sleep, and then made sure the afternoon person was all-set before Kris headed out.
Pictured is Kris behind the counter. Their "office" one could say.
I found myself realizing that the conversation was turning into something else. When I asked Kris about any customers that come to mind when they think about community being fostered at CafeNation, they had numerous examples like the dog walkers who make it their routine to stop by the cafe for their morning coffee and a biscuit for their canine friend, or the grad students who come in almost every day and sit at the same table, and even stories of families and friends who hardly miss a game night at CafeNation. What I noticed though is the community Kris has made among their staff. I noticed a sign on display at the cash register awhile back, “Please do not assume staffer’s pronouns. Thank you!” I asked Kris about this, “Yea, that was put up more for me. I use to not make a big deal of it, but I finally got to a point where I needed to feel like myself. When I explained this to my staff, they were more than supportive of my identifying with They/Them pronouns. The staff have even begun to correct customers in the moments that misgendering does happen. We have a really supportive group behind the scenes, and it makes working here all the better.” Help Brighton Main Streets by considering the Power of Giving Ten.