Ciao for Now burbles with cappuccino machines and the sweet smell of freshly baked muffins fills the air. The cozy cafe on 12th Street has been in business for 12 years. Ciao for Now owners, Amy and Kevin, have lived, worked, and raised their children in the East Village. The place they now call home. Amy grew up in Nebraska and Kevin in the greater New York area and California.
The cafe has a constant flow of local customers – the morning rush is filled with business people on their way to work, artists getting their morning fix of joe, and parents taking a break after dropping their kids off at school. Their freshly baked goods are what they are known for and what people crave. Baked the homemade way. Amy is all about good nutrition and whole ingredients.
“I think about long term and the effects nutrition has on our health. We are all going to get old and this food is an investment in ourselves,” she says.
A silver haired older woman comes in. “Their apple turnovers are the best! I come here daily for them. I wouldn’t miss a day without one.”
Ciao for Now has a steady stream of regulars throughout the day. With a lovely sit down dining area, they provide breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good, wholesome food for the people of the East Village.
Amy and Kevin are cooking and managing their store from 4:30am – 8pm, 7 days a week. They have raised Ciao for Now from the ground up. They run their business for the people and their children.
“We don’t pay for a PR person,” Amy says. “We donate to the school because they need money and we need them. It’s a lovely relationship. There should be more of that in this world. People have a real interest in keeping this neighborhood what it is. We’ve stayed protected over here.”
But the idea of chains encroaching on Avenue A is a big deal for places like Ciao for Now.
Amy’s concern is that a place like 7-Eleven will drive property values up and that it could drive small businesses out of the neighborhood. “The East Village doesn’t want McDonalds, it doesn’t want Starbucks and it doesn’t want 7-Eleven because they drive up the rents.”
But a 7-Eleven is opening at 170 Avenue A, even though work has come to a screeching halt as of late.
Amy and Kevin fear large corporations moving into this neighborhood. “It will kill the excitement and entrepreneurial spirit. You can’t fight it, there’s no way we can compete with people who have investors, stock holders and share holders. We don’t have any of that, it’s just us. Working as hard as we can to keep it going everyday. That’s all we have.”
Amy explains, “People come in here and ask why do you charge for an avocado? Because I’m paying for the same avocado you buy at the grocery store, it just gets delivered to me at 5 o’clock in the morning. I don’t have the buying power to get 20 cases of avocados and leave them downstairs because 19 of those cases would rot and I would lose my money. It’s easy for the corporations to get away with it because they are supplying and buying for 90 stores. Their buying power is unbelievable. They can get products at no cost.”
7-Eleven offers little more than junk food and food-like products which are full of preservatives. “Their product is on the shelf for… you don’t know how long,” says Kevin. “If people really knew the additives and preservatives that went into those food products to keep them preserved and wrapped up like that. And then you are putting that into your body?”
Amy adds, “I’d rather spend a little bit more money on higher quality food, and eat less of it, then get a whole bunch more food with no nutritional value. I tell my kids that all the time.”
“We’ve been brainwashed in this society to think that ‘cheaper is better’ and ‘it’s all about your budget’ and ‘Walmart is better,'” Amy says ironically. “Walmart comes in and wipes out a whole community because Walmart researches it and they can provide all those services cheaper with employes who don’t get paid decent wages.”
“We have people working for us at Ciao for Now for eleven and a half years. That’s something you want to do is support the people who support you. If we are always just looking for the bottom dollar we are never going to get past that problem.”
Amy throws her arms up. “Banks and trans fats! What are you gonna do?”