Vegan Wonderland makes Dortmund more attractive: interview with Kim Kalkowski (part 2)

The opportunity was there. Kim Kalkowski played it smart and took advantage of the vacancy debate in Dortmund when looking for suitable locations for her vegan café Cakes'n'Treats and her supermarket Vegilicious that sells entirely animal-free products.
The special offer does not only attact people from the area but also from abroad. Some would like to move to the Ruhr area right away, says Kim in the second part of her interview with 2010LAB.

You already mentioned the importance of your gut feeling. Is that what led you to the step to open the café and the supermarket in Dortmund?
We don't employ professional bakers or cooks here but we have retail trade professionals who didn't estimate the extra effort as not so big. Especially with regards to the supermarket. The café has always been a matter of heart for me so that the cakes and all the other nice things we offer can reach more people. Everybody is welcome to stop by and take a look.

How did you manage to get the two real estates here in the middle of the Brück district?
Immo Scout had this particular room to offer. I liked it for the café but when you cannot integrate both shops into each other, they should at least be located close by. Then, I did some research through Immowelt and found the room across the street which is rented by the same person. Both shop floors were indeed available including a warehouse of 60sqm which we gladly took over to be able to quickly re-stock our goods.

At an affordable rate?

The area is perfectly fine by me. I protect myself in different ways. Before signing the agreement, I contacted a lawyer who specialises in commercial lease law. He worked through the entire contract which now saves me 100 euros per month. And I don't have to shovel snow at 6am.
It all comes down to the gut feeling again. I push my luck when it comes to these things - I told the landlord: OK, I take both rooms but I want the warehouse for free.
The property management company Terrania AG was happy to rent out both spaces to liven things up in the district. In particular because they saw themselves confronted with the accusation to promote vacancies in this area.

In early 2010, Ullrich Sierau, mayor of Dortmund, objected vehemently to the idea of vegetarian cooking in the communal cafeterias once a week. Has he visited your café?

Not so far. But the district mayor of the Green party, Friedrich Roesner. He is vegetarian.

Are café and supermarket good for taking down barriers among passing customers who don't really want to deal with alternatives to animal products?
Many come and take a look - they find it hard to believe that our creamy cakes can be made withour "real" cream. The feedback is generally positive because we are happy to consult, and we don't ask people if they are vegan for them to be allowed to enter. Everybody is welcome.

For people who are lactose intolerant, this is an important point. Me, I don't eat animal products for ethical reasons and thus I don't see it as a restraint. For the lactose-intolerant however, it's a burden.

We have to take down barriers and explain to some people that our cheese is not some sort of analogue cheese but a real alternative.

Can you roughly estimate how many guests come from outside Dortmund?
I can't tell exactly but it's quite a few. We have a guest book that the guests from out of town write into. Last week, two girls from France came here and bought goods worth 300 euros in the supermarket. Then, they took off again. We had people from Karlsruhe come here - they had breakfast here and then went on a shopping tour in the city centre. Afterwards, they came by again and had some sweets before going to a museum. Before going back home, they had a burger at our place.

That means you promote local tourism.
Totally! Our guest book has entries such as "St. Pauli loves you" or "We came here all the way from Vienna". I was asked if I could recommend a hotel many times. Some people mentioned that Dortmund has turned into a way more attractive place to study and that they were thinking about moving here. If you have a suitable gastronomy or a place to shop that you like, it makes you feel a lot better right away.

Yet the Cakes'n'Treats is closed on Sundays. Is the Brück district missing café flair?
The problem is that the Brück Center is closed on Sundays and we don't have the key to the main door. We politely asked twice but it would mean that we are responsible for the entire centre which means that I will have to pay if someone besmears the windows in the back.

In summer, we could open up the window but the people outside would still be disappointed that the supermarket is closed. More than a few Sunday shopping days is not possible at the moment.
In general, the Brück district and the entire city lacks a culture of cafés. Lacking the calm to simply sit down and have a coffee. Also when people come to us by themselves to read a book or the newspaper. They like the relaxed atmosphere.

Photos: Michael Blatt

 
 
Sun, 03.04.2011 0

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