“A copper palace for Coppergate!” » Opening of a unique new location in the city center of York

A unique new venue, including a cafe, shop and even an art library, is set to open in York city center next month.

ALMA Café & Gifts will take over Number 6 Coppergate – formerly the office of tobacconist Choice Select until its closure in 2018.

It’s a family affair, says Andres Jaroslavsky, who is behind the plan with his partner Lisa Holah.

“ALMA stands for Anna, Lisa, Max and Andres, a difficult couple and the two children,” he said. “The logo is our cat – if it’s not a family business, tell me!”

After years of slumping, it looks like Coppergate is definitely on the rise – with another store is expected to open across the street soon.

Learn more about what will become a “Copper Palace on Coppergate” in our Q&A with Andres and Lisa below.

Huge potential

Number 6 Coppergate, soon to be ALMA Café & Gifts. Photography: Richard McDougall

Tell us about Team ALMA.

Andres: Lisa is the businessman. She has many years of restaurant and management experience. She is the human embodiment of a clock, always disciplined, organized and orderly… Lisa can multi-task at a level that will amaze a laptop.

On the other hand, I’m probably one of the most disorganized and messy people on the planet, but I love creating things.

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. At the same time, I’ve always had a keen eye for design.

What is the business?

Lisa: ALMA – Cafe & Gifts is an idea we have been toying with for a long time. I have many years of restaurant experience, including four years at Pig & Pastry and five years as director of York Explore, the company that runs York’s library cafes.

Andres: We have worked and saved a lot for almost five years. Last year we started looking for the right place. A shop that can accommodate a nice cafe with spaces for the gift shop and potentially some art materials.

Last December, we launched a Etsy page selling my creations. The page did well and it gave us more confidence to put the two businesses together, the designs and the cafe.

What foods and drinks will you be serving?

Lisa: The cafe will have a variety of offerings. We will have a menu for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

Fresh salads daily, open sandwiches and toast. All made with local suppliers in York. Delicious brownies, fresh scones and a variety of vegan cakes.

We will make milkshakes with Yorvale ice cream and York emporium coffee and much more!

And what kind of gifts are you going to sell?

Lisa: The idea behind the shop is that the cafe is decorated with Andres’ creations and people can have a coffee and a cake inside this “catalogue”…from Andres’ posters to cards, calendars , bags, etc

But also the idea is to expand the designs soon: mugs and espresso cups will be designed by Andres and, if you like them, you can buy them in the shop.

Why York and why Coppergate?

Andres: We may ask “where better than York?!” We have lived here and worked here for over 20 years.

But we also thought Coppergate had huge potential. A forgotten street that needed a little love and care.

As residents of York, we have sometimes felt that tourism is so important that it has almost alienated residents’ relationship with the city centre. That’s why we decided to build a small hub open to everyone but also concerned about our local community.

One of Andres’ works, ready to hang on the wall

How much work is involved in the transformation of the building?

Andres: A lot. The shop was an empty box, closed for almost four years. We were both a little tired of standard-looking cafes, where everything comes from a restaurant catalog or a kit furniture chain…

We wanted to build a cafe that we would enjoy. So we were very clear from the beginning in our intention to build something “handmade”. We want it to feel like a cool second home for people who visit it.

The place where you have breakfast and read the papers, in your favorite corner… or perhaps a treat with your partner in a sofa in the 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 your phone a break and pick any art book to peruse, isn’t that awesome?

Thirty minutes with a good espresso, a delicious croissant while discovering who Viviane Mayer has been!

How will the interior be?

Andres: This will be a bit controversial for nerdy historians: “Coppergate” means “street of the cup makers”. In the 12th century it was first recorded as a center of coopers, from which its name derives. Nothing to do with orange, soft metal!

But that didn’t stop us from designing an interior based on a common misconception that the café interior will therefore be a clean, decluttered space with old industrial copper pendant lights and copper decoration.

Even the toilet basin is made from an old copper pot. A copper palace on Coppergate!

I’m actually thinking of building a fake tunnel in the basement and telling tourists that it was the entrance to the medieval copper mine, the famous “Coppergate”…

Do you think it would be a mistake to make small earrings out of the cut copper pipes of the plumbing and tell tourists that these tiny pieces came from the medieval mine?

The cat has a say, of course

Will you create jobs?

Lisa: It’s not just coffee that will create jobs! The shop floor was laid by a York company, the counter and interior were built by a York carpenter and the front was painted by a York decorating company.

The coffee you are about to drink is roasted in York and Andres’ maps, posters and designs are printed by a company in York. All of our fresh produce is sourced from York-based companies. Nothing comes over 20 miles!

I can’t think of anything in the shop that wasn’t bought or built in York (except Andres…)

Andres: At the moment, I am building the counter and the tables for the café. We found 20 old science class tables from a school near York.

I was ready to sand them down when I realized the tables were covered in carvings! Decades of children’s graffiti. Passionate messages but also the most explicit drawings…

One of the school desk tops that could be part of the cafe…

I’m tempted to keep them but I’m not sure that everyone will appreciate the art of teenagers while drinking cream tea with the grandchildren…

I posted some photos 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 paintings clean of any profanity.

If we don’t kill each other on the way, we hope to open at the end of July, maybe earlier… 😉

About Octavia A. Dorr

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