Business Spotlight: RED SOFA CAFÉ & DELI
Welcome to the first feature of our new Business Spotlight blog series! We’ll be using this space to highlight some of the amazing businesses — large and small — that have adopted a honeybee hive with us. At Honeybee Heroes, we’re big believers in supporting local and family-run businesses. All of the businesses we talk about here are South African businesses who are working in their communities to make the world a better place, and we can’t wait to introduce you to them.
Ask someone on the street in Vredehoek, Cape Town where to pop in for a cup of coffee and a tasty bite to eat, and odds are they’ll shove you in the direction of Red Sofa Café. A local’s favourite since 2012, Red Sofa was bought by a young couple during the COVID-19 pandemic, who have put their hearts into transforming the café into a hub for sustainably and ethically-produced foods, while holding firmly to its authentic Vredehoek roots.
Tari Cohen and Kate Leslie were looking for something a bit more meaningful in their careers. After working in corporate for many years, they wanted to do something more aligned with their eco-minded lifestyle.
A friend of Tari’s found out they were looking for a restaurant space and connected them with the former owner of Red Sofa, who she knew was looking for someone to take over the reins. Three months later, the deal was complete, and Tari and Kate started preparations for revamping the beloved café.
“It was a scary leap,” says Tari. “But there comes a point in your adult life where you realise, what am I doing to give back? And here was our opportunity to make a difference in the best way we knew how.”
Because of the pandemic, the couple decided to add a deli to the restaurant, where visitors could come pick up fresh food and products as an alternative to a sit-down meal. Together, they rolled up their sleeves and renovated the storeroom in the back into a new deli.
Tari and Kate decided straight away that the deli — and the restaurant — would stock only ethically produced and sustainably sourced fresh produce and goods. As a result, they source only pasture-reared animal products, and for their fruits and veggies, they’ve partnered up with local farmers and even community gardens like Streetscape Gardens, a homeless upliftment project that runs gardens around Cape Town’s city centre.
“You should see the stuff we get from them,” Tari says. “It is all beautiful produce, and the pride they show in the packaging and care is amazing. These people are putting everything into getting a job and getting themselves off the street. Those are the initiatives we try to support. As much as we can get from them, we do.”
For their other products, Tari and Kate have teamed up with producers who source their ingredients from community initiatives, bringing everything full circle. That includes people like Tina from Home Bao, who gets all of her veggies for her products from local farmers in the region, or Nadine, the woman who makes their broths, who also sources from local farms.
“The biggest surprise — and the most delightful part — of the job has been meeting a network of farmers, producers and small business owners , all doing their part. There are so many people out there supporting their community initiatives, who want to give people with limited choices a better life.”
For Tari and Kate, the biggest goal for the café and deli has been to give regular consumers the option to purchase better. That means high quality food products, from environmentally friendly organisations, with real local impact.
“When you’ve got a full-time job and maybe kids, it’s difficult to make the right choices about what you eat or make time for helping others. But we’ve met a whole network of people who are trying to bridge that gap and make those right choices easier to make. We want to make it so that if you buy your fruit and vegetables from someone like us, it’s an easy way to make a difference without much effort. Because you know when you buy that product, farmer Joe is getting money back into his pocket, and he’s changing his life and his child’s life. When he comes home and he’s filled with pride, his kid can see that and that kid is filled with pride and it’s a cycle of hope.”
The deli’s community has jumped on board to the concept, says Tari. “We couldn’t have done it without this community here. Vredehoek has been so supportive.”
For the duo, that local vibe is everything they could’ve hoped for. “When someone walks in, the barista starts making their coffee before they even sit down. Because we know them, we know how they like it. We’re here every day. It’s something so special to be a part of.”
They have noticed with awe that a lot of people off to do their shopping will come to Red Sofa Deli first, to see what they can get, and then they top up elsewhere. Making that first stop at their deli is the kind of decision that could have impact for generations to come, for farmers, producers, and the environment alike.
It was Tari and Kate’s dedication to community foods that brought them to Honeybee Heroes. “One of our customers saw what we do and what we stand for and said, ‘Listen, you should really check this out,” says Tari.
Tari and Kate spent the night at Willowdale Farm and did a beekeeping experience with Chris. Since then, Red Sofa Cafe & Deli sources all of their honey from Honeybee Heroes, for sale in the deli or for use in the restaurant.
Tari and Kate celebrated their first anniversary as Red Sofa owners in November — and the café and deli is more of a local favourite than ever. Red Sofa is open all day, so make sure you pop in and give it a try, maybe buy some Honeybee Heroes honey, and say hi to Tari and Kate for us!
Do you own or work at a business that might be interested in sponsoring a honeybee hive? Check out the Adopt a Hive tab on the menu above or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.