Hospice-run cafe to close
Volunteers have been left “devastated” after being told a popular town centre cafe, which hosts a number of community groups, is to close on Christmas Eve.
Heart of Flavour on King Street, Maidstone, is a regular meeting point for groups of elderly and vulnerable people, including a support group for people suffering with gluten intolerance, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.
The cafe was opened in 2015 in order to generate income for the Aylesford-based Heart of Kent Hospice, and has since also hosted weddings and other functions, with all profits going towards patient care.
However, charity bosses admit they have struggled to generate enough profit for it to continue to be viable in recent months, and will be closing the store, and selling the building later this year.
Chief executive Sarah Pugh said: “This has been a difficult decision, and we’d like to thank everyone who has supported Heart of Kent Hospice by using an volunteering in our cafe and function rooms over the past three years.
“We had hoped that the café would generate a reliable and sustainable source of income to fund our work, but unfortunately this has not been the case; despite trialling a range of different initiatives over a prolonged period of time.”
One member of paid staff will be made redundant when the cafe closes, while the 27 volunteers who have prepared food and served customers are being asked to continue doing so in a different capacity, where possible.
One volunteer, who asked not to be named, said: “Everybody is pretty devastated, and I wonder if they realise the impact this will have on people.
“People absolutely love going, it’s a fantastic place with a really nice atmosphere that can get really busy on some days.
“Maidstone is full of coffee shops but this has got so much more to it.
“People come here and they build their confidence, it’s a chance for them to mix with people without feeling under pressure - I just think it’s such a shame.”
Heart of Flavour says it will honour all events booked up until Christmas Eve, but will not be taking bookings beyond that date. Any concerned customers should call directly on 01622 792200 ext 206.
Manager Scott Fitzgerald in the Heart of Flavour eatery, above left, and the outside of the King Street cafe, top right, which is used by groups for events such as dancing, above
Sarah Pugh, CEO