• The recent taxi strike created significant disruption for both businesses and employees. After staff members were unable to commute to work on a busy day for Sonder Café, three loyal customers stepped up to lend a helping hand.

    On 7 August, the lively Sonder Café in Observatory found itself understaffed due to the strike, leaving co-owner Michelle Fredman and her partner Chase on their own to man the decks. The strike had prevented their three staff members, who live in Khayelitsha, from reaching work.

    Talking to the People’s Post, Michelle explained that, with no option to close for the day, she and Chase took on multiple roles to keep the café running smoothly. Michelle worked as a chef in the kitchen, while Chase handled barista duties.

    The situation intensified during the morning rush as other restaurants also struggled due to staff shortages and power outages. Sonder Café is equipped with an inverter, allowing it to continue operating during loadshedding.

    Sonder Cafe
    Image: Sourced/sonderobz.com

    Despite the challenges, the café remained determined to serve its customers.

    In a heartwarming twist, three regular patrons of the café, Motheo Moleko, Rafael Bloch, and Juvae Sewpersad, recognised the café’s predicament and decided to lend a hand. These individuals, who frequently visited the café, observed the staff’s struggles and decided to pitch in.

    Michelle Fredman expressed her gratitude for their spontaneous assistance, highlighting the community spirit that still thrives during difficult times. The trio of good samaritans seamlessly integrated themselves into the café’s operations. One assisted in the kitchen, another took charge of dishwashing duties, and the third enthusiastically assumed the role of a waiter.

    Motheo Moleko, one of the volunteers, mentioned that he saw an opportunity to make a difference during his break from work. Moleko, who runs an advertising agency, spends a considerable amount of time at the café daily and thought that offering his support was the least he could do.

    He modestly remarked that his actions were simply an expression of basic human kindness. His participation included taking orders and serving tables, contributing significantly to the café’s operations.

    “If we have the ability to help, and if it’s easy enough to do, then we should do it. I don’t think what I did is praiseworthy, but if it brings people together, I guess it is worthwhile. I was taking orders and waiting tables,” he told the People’s Post.

    Michelle noted that the trio’s familiarity with the café played a crucial role in their effective assistance. Their genuine interest and regular presence had familiarised them with the café’s menu and operations, making their involvement invaluable.

    “It is nice to see the community spirit is still alive during tough times. We are massively grateful to them. I think it is because they come here often, so they learned the ropes just from watching. They knew the menu, and they knew what to do. They were a great help. One of them is here, still taking orders and enjoying his role as a waiter.”

    In addition to the heartening support from these community members, Michelle Fredman mentioned that the café was able to provide alternative accommodation for their three staff members throughout the duration of the strike. This comprehensive show of solidarity and assistance underlines the strength of human connection, particularly in times of adversity.

    Image: Sonder Café/Facebook

    Sonder Café posted the following message of gratitude to Motheo, Rafael and Juvae:

    “There are certain days, as a small business owner in South Africa when you really do question why you do what you do.

    Days when your entire staff can’t get to work because of taxi strikes and loadshedding runs for 2 hours in the middle of your lunch rush, days when you decide to still keep your cafe open because you can’t afford to close and somehow continue to operate with just the two of you spinning frantically as you toast bagels on gas and churn out endless flat whites.

    Days when you really do wonder what the point of it all is.

    But then three of your legendary customers rock up, immediately roll up their sleeves, and start waitering, making smoothies, and doing the dishes. For no reason other than that’s what friends do.

    Then you remember that if you hadn’t opened your small business, you wouldn’t have friends like this, and you wouldn’t feel the community’s love so intensely in the moments when it all feels like it’s falling apart.

    A huge shout out to these legends: @motheomoleko, @rafaeladambloch, and Jay.

    And to all our customers for their patience and support during these testing times!”

    ALSO SEE: Baking dreams into reality: The Charly’s Bakery story

    Baking dreams into reality: The Charly’s Bakery story

    Feature Image: Sonder Café/Facebook

    By Sarah du Toit for Cape {town} Etc. Magazine