Ursula’s Cafe has a unique pricing model

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New Downtown Roanoke Nonprofit Cafe Welcomes All With What You Can Donate Model



Give what you can. Get what you need. That’s the thinking behind a new non-profit restaurant opening in downtown Roanoke.

“We wanted to do something to create more joy, fundamentally, and less misery,” said Ami Trowell, co-founder of Ursule’s cafe at the corner of Jefferson Street and Franklin Road. “… We wanted to have a warm and inviting space and provide delicious and nutritious food that anyone can come for.”

Ursula’s Cafe, a volunteer-run 501©(3), operates on a give-what-you-can system, allowing customers to pay as much or as little as they can for its menu of soups, salads and side dishes. pastries.

Each item carries a donation suggestion. Those who are willing to donate more to support the mission of the project are encouraged to do so.

Those who cannot give at all are equally welcome.

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“We want you to eat,” Trowell said. “…We really mean it. The food is there even if you can’t afford it.

The idea for Ursula’s Cafe – which Trowell and her husband, Jordan Fallon, began researching and working on in 2020 – was inspired by movements such as the A world that everyone eats countryside and like-minded restaurants such as the Open House Cafe in Wytheville.

The model of giving what you can resonated with the couple, who both teach at local colleges, as they invited people from all parts of the community without stigma or hostility towards those who were struggling or without housing.

It revolves around the idea of ​​community building and neighbors helping neighbors. “It really offers the opportunity for people who might have a supplement to help provide something for people who don’t have enough,” Trowell said. “We support each other. Seems like a better way to have a community.

Café Ursula, open for lunch four days a week, offers a menu that includes a hearty vegan chili, a second soup that will rotate seasonally, an organic mixed green salad, and a range of baked goods that changes weekly.

Over time, volunteers hope to add sandwiches to this selection. The restaurant uses the community kitchen run by JUMP (Local Environmental Agriculture Project) to prepare food. Other local groups, including Morningside Urban Farm and the Roanoke Co+opparticipate in product donations that help determine the café’s seasonal menu.

In addition to its restaurant, which opened in August, Ursula’s Cafe also hopes to become a community gathering place and arts venue. Its approximately 1,600 square foot space offers inviting seating groups and board games for people to linger.

Roanoke Soul Sessions now hosts open mics at the cafe every Wednesday night. The space is available for other meeting and event bookings.

Since opening its doors, the cafe has seen that mix it hoped for of diners who can donate and diners who can’t, Trowell said. He also saw that more intangible thing he hoped to create – more joy.

“Really, it’s been absolutely amazing,” she said. “It was a deeply humbling experience to do this. More than we probably even really thought at first.

Ursula Cafe, located at 511 Jefferson St. SW, is open 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. You can find more information about the cafe and ways to support it online at ursulascafe.org.

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