Unique Mississauga Restaurant and Cafe Asks Residents to Help Keep it Alive

It's hard out there for any small business and not-for-profit establishments face even more unique challenges.

For that reason, the popular community hub and cafe Studio 89 is reaching out to both the city and local residents for help.

Recently, we found out that fair-trade cafe—known for its involvement with arts and culture, activism, empowerment, and conscious consumerism—is in trouble. Zehra Abbas, the founder and current proprietor of Studio 89, made a presentation to Mississauga City Council requesting much needed funding. She said unless the cafe gets $50,000 from the city to stay afloat for the next five to six months while operators work through their financial plan, the popular community hub will have to close down.

“We’ve had issues with the rising rent, utility costs, the minimum wage, and our location has always been a challenge,” Abbas said during her presentation to councillors.

Since moving to a location with more foot traffic isn't feasible at this time, operators have come up with some solutions.

Abbas said the core of the issue is that profit margins are low because of the promotion of social justice. Going forward, the financial plan is to improve corporate workshops and partnerships with the private sector, increase their school programming (Studio 89 has partnerships with eight schools in Peel), and to do more outreach to the community to get more sponsorships.

While the city appears open to discussing Studio 89's plight, the organization has been trying to fill its coffers with donations from other people and organizations.

Recently, cafe operators took to Facebook to announce their financial troubles and remind customers that the establishment might be closed to temporarily shutter its doors.

"Dear Studio 89 Community,

You may have heard, with operational expenses rising we have encountered some financial issues and could be in danger of closing our doors temporarily. Now, this isn’t a new challenge, we have been operating on a very tiny budget since we opened, however, it seems we have just reached a point where we may have to make some difficult decisions," the open letter reads.

The post goes on to inform customers that the cafe is "actively strategizing and mobilizing" to keep its doors open.

"As always, we are deeply committed to the important, collaborative work being done in the Studio.89 space and are actively strategizing and mobilizing to keep our doors open. We recognize we’ve evolved into an essential community space, catering to the rich diversity that represents our city."

Asides from asking the city for $50,000 (a fair chunk of change, to be fair), the organization is working towards long term sustainability and growth by identifying local stakeholders, funders and sponsors for Studio.89.

In short, the company is on the lookout for sponsors who can fund its operations and help it main its one-of-a-kind social programming. Although cafes are common enough, it's hard to argue that Studio 89 is comparable to other popular indie coffee joints like Archtop Cafe or The Cold Pressery. Truly a hub, the cafe offers book club meetings, game nights, documentary screenings, workshops (right now, it's running one for Syrian women) and timely talks about social issues.

In fact, the cafe is hosting a talk about white supremacy in Mississauga as part of its Community Conversations programming on Oct. 12.

"We are thrilled with the city’s response and willingness to provide us with guidance. We have drafted a multi-prong approach which includes obtaining sponsors, fundraising and new social justice programming. We hope to one day, in conjunction with the city, move into a more accessible space but for now, we must stay put in a place we can afford," the letter reads.

So, how can Studio 89 supporters help the cafe?

According to organizers, it needs people to step up and help connect it with sponsors who can provide the necessary funding to continue operations. The cafe is also asking for help connecting with electricians, carpenters, and plumbers to help staff fix what has worn down.

At this point in time, it doesn't appear that the cafe is starting a crowdfunding campaign (which makes sense if they're trying to be more sustainable in the long-term) and is instead asking the community to to help it find more permanent solutions to its revenue problem.

We'll keep you updated on more details as they emerge.

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