A unique new venue, featuring a café, shop and even an art library, is set to open in York city centre next month.
ALMA Café & Gifts will take over number 6 Coppergate – formerly home to the Choice Select tobacconist until it closed in 2018.
It is a family affair, says Andres Jaroslavsky, who is behind the plan with partner Lisa Holah.
“ALMA stands for Anna, Lisa, Max and Andres, a difficult couple and the two kids,” he said. “The logo is our cat – if that is not a family business you tell me!”
After years in the doldrums, it feels like Coppergate is definitely on the up – with another shop due to open on the street soon.
Learn more about what will become a ‘copper palace on Coppergate’ in our Q&A with Andres and Lisa below.
Tell us about the ALMA team.
Andres: Lisa is the business person. She has many years of experience in catering and management. She is the human incarnation of a clock, always disciplined, organised and tidy… Lisa can multitask to level that will surprise a laptop.
On the other hand, I am probably one of the most disorganised, untidy persons on the planet, but I do love creating stuff.
I am a painter and I also run York Corner Studio, an art studio based in York and Harrogate where I teach painting and drawing. In parallel, I always had a keen eye for designing.
What’s the business all about?
Lisa: ALMA – Cafe & Gifts is an idea that we were toying with for a long time. I have many years of experience in catering, including four years working at the Pig & Pastry and five years as manager for York Explore, the company that runs the York libraries cafés.
Andres: We worked lots, and saved for almost five years. Last year we started looking for the right place. A shop that can accommodate a beautiful café with spaces for the gift shop and potentially a bit of art materials.
Last december we started an Etsy page selling my designs. The page worked well and that gave us more confidence to put the two businesses together, the designs and the café.
What food and drink will you be serving?
Lisa: The café will have a variety of offers. We will have a breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea menu.
Fresh salads every day, open sandwiches and toasties. All made with local suppliers within York. Delicious brownies, fresh scones and a variety of vegan cakes.
We will do milkshakes with Yorvale ice cream and coffee from York emporium plus much more!
And what sort of gifts will you sell?
Lisa: The idea behind the shop is that the cafe is a decorated with Andres’ designs and people can have a coffee and a cake inside that ‘catalogue’… from Andres’ posters, to cards, calendars, bags etc.
But also the idea is to expands the designs soon: the mugs and espresso cups will be designed by Andres and, if you like them, you will be able to buy them in the shop.
Why York, and why Coppergate?
Andres: We can ask “where better than York?!” We live here and have worked here for more than 20 years.
But also we thought that Coppergate has huge potential. A forgotten street that needed a bit of love and care.
As residents of York sometimes we had the sensation that tourism is so big that almost alienated the residents relationship with the city centre. That is why we decided to build a little hub opened to everybody but also keen to our local community.
How much work is involved in transforming the building?
Andres: Lots. The shop was an empty box, closed for almost four years. We were both a bit tired of cafés with standard looks, where everything comes from a catering catalog or a flat pack furniture chain…
We wanted to build a café that we would love to enjoy. So we were very clear from the beginning in our intention to build something “hand made”. We want it to feel like a cool second home for the people that visit it.
The place where you have your breakfast and read the papers, in your favourite corner… or maybe a treat with your partner in a sofa in a quiet basement.
We don’t want to give too much away but listen: in the basement there will be an art library. You can give a break to your phone and pick any art book to browse, is that not great?
Thirty minutes with a great espresso, a delicious croissant while discovering who Vivian Maier was!
What’s the interior going to be like?
Andres: This will be a little bit controversial for nerdy historians: “Coppergate” means “street of the cup-makers”. In the 12th century it was first recorded as a centre for coopers, from which its name derives. Nothing to do with the orange, soft metal!
But that didn’t stop us designing an interior based on a well-spread false assumption: so the café interior will be a clean, decluttered space with old industrial copper pendant lights, and copper decoration.
Even the basin in the toilet is made of an old copper pan. A copper palace on Coppergate!
I am actually thinking of building a fake tunnel in the basement and tell tourists that this was the entrance to the medieval copper mine, the famous “Coppergate”…
Do you think it will be wrong to make little earrings with the copper pipes off cuts from the plumbing and tell tourist that this tiny pieces came from the medieval mine?
Will you be creating any jobs?
Lisa: It’s not just the café that will create jobs! The floor of the shop was laid by a York company, the counter and interior was built by a York joiner and the front was painted by anYork decorating firm.
The coffee you will drink is roasted in York and Andres’ cards, posters and designs are printed by a company in York. All our fresh produces comes from York based companies. Nothings comes from more than 20 miles away!
I can’t think of anything in the shop that wasn’t bought or built in York (except Andres…)
Andres: Right now I am building the counter and the tables for the café. We found 20 old classroom science tables from a school near York.
I was ready to sand them when I realised that the tables were covered with carvings! Decades of kids’ graffiti. Passionate messages but also the most explicits drawings…
I am really tempted to preserve them but I am not sure everybody will appreciate teenagers’ art while while having a cream tea with the grandkids…
I posted some pictures on my Facebook asking friends to help me with the dilemma. They are still arguing!
I think I will crop the most interesting ones, frame them and keep the tables clean from profanity.
If we don’t kill each other in the process, we hope to open at the end of July, maybe sooner… 😉