Novelty in New Mziuri
If the New Mziuri Park is a lively place today, it is at least partially due to a café, or to be more accurate, a social space, as the importance of this venue cannot be limited to its role as a catering facility alone.
Gvantsa is a barista at the Mziuri Café. She has worked there since its inception. Gvantsa was aware of the project’s mission well before the opening and agreed without hesitation to Anna’s offer to start working there: “I have long wanted to work at the café and I gladly accepted the offer. I think, no matter what you do, the work should be meaningful and the process of working enjoyable.
From the very first day I have firmly believed that the job I am doing is a kind of activism. Each day is part of a continued effort to develop a space that is a very important element of its urban surroundings. We are proud that such a space is open for everyone and adjusted to everyone’s needs,” Gvantsa said.
If you have ever visited Mziuri you may have seen Anna too. Mziuri is like a second home to Anna Goguadze. The idea to restore the café came to her in 2014, on the tenth anniversary of the Sun Festival, which she also organizes. Having learned about social entrepreneurship, she saw a prospect for establishing a social café. She thought that if she could persuade the state to finance the refurbishment of the former ice-cream parlor, it would become possible to create such a space in Mziuri.
“When we started this work, we knew nothing about business. We started from scratch. We gained trust as a result of the Sun Festival, but we had no idea how difficult it would be to upgrade this space to its current state.”
Today, the Mziuri Café can host everyone, without exception – it is adjusted to the needs of children, mothers, and persons with disabilities. Mziuri is the only café in Tbilisi that offers a Braille menu.
The atmosphere in the café is always pleasant as the hosts smile all the time, greet everyone amiably and do everything to make them feel at home.
Being a social café, Mziuri’s profits are fully spent on its social mission - maintaining an active social space in Mziuri. Year after year, this space has played host to numerous events with the participation of active youth and adults.
Although Mziuri is a favorite place for all generations, it faces difficulties in winter as the bad weather affects the number of visitors. Therefore, they have to continuously think about development and to seek additional sources of income.
It was Anna’s idea to apply for a grant competition announced by Europe Foundation – she decided to make up for the shortfall they experience in winter by offering a home delivery service. She won Europe Foundation grant competition and now intends to use the proceeds for the expansion of a catering service.
“It started quite spontaneously. One morning we received a phone call and were asked whether we could provide a catering service. I instantly realized that we should not miss this opportunity. We got ready and prepared the first party. The client was happy with what we provided, which encouraged us to take further steps. With the assistance of Europe Foundation we are now working on the expansion of this service: we have developed a catering concept and a new menu; we’ve purchased new tableware and utensils; we are setting up a webpage, drawing up an information catalogue and shooting new food photos for the menu,” recounted Anna.
The person in charge of the Mziuri Café menu as well as the catering service is Misha Ovsajanashvili, Mziuri’s Chef de Cuisine. He never discloses his recipes as he is the only person who creates every dish and safeguards them as exclusive products of Mziuri; consequently, everything you eat at Mziuri is unique. The same holds true for the catering. For example, the catering menu includes items such as: canapé with baked beet and blue cheese, chicken tenini (stuffed chicken) with citrus sauce, valovani with baked bell pepper salad, vegetable wrap, fluffy pancakes with baked eggplant pâté, Pelamushi (a dessert made from grape juice and flour), red Sangria, et cetera.
“Everything you eat at Mziuri Café or that is delivered by Mziuri, is authentic and exclusive. Moreover, we pay a great deal of attention to the quality and safety of our food products. Most importantly, we manage to do all this at an affordable price as this is part of our concept as well,” Anna said.
Everything is colorful at Mziuri and the catering is prepared in various colors too. The service personnel are not clad in standard white shirts and black aprons. The decorative style is French Provençal - with elements of wood and iron.
“I would like the Mziuri Café to operate as a business. I do not want people visiting Mziuri only because it is a social café. I think we have already achieved this – we have proved that a social café may be successful as a business and we will be happy if we manage to operate it in a better way,” Anna said.
Over the past two years the Mziuri Café has hosted 190 events. Film screenings, music and literature evenings, charity events, a Sunday club for children – all this is Mziuri. The doors of Mziuri are always open for everyone, including in bad weather too.
Author: Ketevan Magalashvili
Photos by: Nata Abashidze- Romanovskaya and Nika Panishvili