STORY BY KELSEA GRAHAM
Adam Senecaut rushes a savory bowl of beans, cashew cheese and greens to a table of hungry customers. Senecaut’s tattoos peek out of his plaid shirt when he reaches to place the bowl on the table. He power walks back to the counter to take over the register while his business partner Madeline Krantz, a modern day looking ‘Rosie the Riveter,’ modestly mans the kitchen and the cappuccino machine. The quaint, hip New World Café is packed with a variety of corporate customers and professionals on their lunch break.
An hour passes and the crowd disperses. Standing beneath a photo of a man in a gas mask cradling a baby pig, Krantz counts receipts and punches them into the register. Masked by the food, music and chaos, lies a powerful message: building a community that can share resources and a passion for saving animals.
“I self-describe myself as an anarchist, which to me means organizing in a way we call mutual aid,” Senecaut says while sipping on a vegan iced coffee.
“Instead of based on competition (New World Café) is about cooperation. People have resources that they don’t need, so this is about sharing resources.”
The result is a community space where all income levels can eat good vegan food. The reason: The sliding pay scale. Customers can pay what they want for what they eat. If they only have a few dollars in their pocket they can still try Krantz’s yummy Mexican bowl. If they have some extra cash, they can pay more today and help someone else out. For Senecaut, it’s a way he can subvert capitalism. For customers, it provides a chance to put their internal ethics on display. And for the cash register: “This method is working really well,” Senecaut said.
New World Café works to build a community by encouraging customers to serve themselves after their food is brought to them. Customers are responsible for getting their own water, utensils and eco-friendly napkins. Right next to it is three carefully labeled bins for recycling, compost and trash, the customer is responsible for choosing what goes where.
Senecaut points at the table with utensils and a bin, “We want to change the relationship between the person behind the counter and the person paying. We want it to be more than a transaction. We want people to become sustainers of a space that they feel is a part of them. We don’t have servers … we bring the food out to people, but people serve themselves and clean up after themselves. This goes with what we call horizontalism.”
The business is run horizontally instead of top-down. There are no bosses, no managers, and employees share power while the responsibilities rotate.
Senecaut counts the number of employees on his hands, holding up seven fingers.
“When people band together they accomplish amazing things,” Senecaut said. We do this with our friends when we share responsibilities at a dinner party. These are naturally things people do.”
New World Café’s message of sustainability and community is expressed in the atmosphere. The space is small, but adequate enough to put up posters with a recurring theme of liberation. Posters tell stories of struggles and resistance around the world. In one corner of the café is a table full of animal rights literature and flyers for local, lesser-known events, including local shows and community happenings.
The café is quiet now, the only sound is the cappuccino machine hissing itself clean. Krantz, still standing beneath the man in the gas mask holding a pig, keeps a stern look on her face as she organizes receipts. In two hours they will open for dinner and another crowd will rush in to savor Krant’z creations and experience a sense of community and activism.