During this time of celebration, joy, love, and giving, it’s appropriate that a friend of mine took me to a unique restaurant in Hamilton. Called the 541 Eatery & Exchange, it’s a hidden gem in the city’s core (Barton Village).
Initially, I thought it was just a coffee shop/gathering place as it was bustling with activity and the delicious smells of home cooking all around. Yet, this place was a bit different. When we went up to order our meals, there were two large jars in front of the cash register. Both contained a variety of buttons.
Image from http://bit.ly/2ARR8EH
What makes this place so special is that not only can you get a great meal at a reasonable price, but you can also donate by paying it forward. Prices for meals and fresh-baked goods range anywhere from $2.00 – $6.00. While ordering your food you can, if you want, purchase buttons at $1.00 each and move them from the Pay It Forward jar to the Button Bank jar.
When someone comes in who doesn’t have the funds to pay for a hot breakfast, they can take up to five buttons from the Button Bank jar to pay for their meal. Normally, a latte is $3.00 there, but say you only have $1.00 – you can take two buttons from the Bank jar and enjoy.
Image from http://bit.ly/2C7LheF
This program is all about giving to receive in a way that maintains the dignity of those who may not be able to afford such things. Everyone orders from the same menu; eats and enjoys the same food. As Executive Director Sue Carr says, “It’s a charity…but it is not a soup kitchen” (Hayes, 2017, April 3).
The restaurant staff are largely volunteers; even though their goal is to make a profit. Profits that are then reinvested to offer more to those in need.
According to Hayes, the eatery is,
More than a restaurant, it is a unique social enterprise, fuelled by, and wholly dependent on, the generosity of the community.
Sitting at the harvest table, it was very clear that this place promotes the feeling of community and allows people to be social. Whether people want a cheap, healthy meal, a coffee, muffin, or just to sit in charming surroundings and chat, it’s a great way to help change the area one button at a time.
As with all good things, there are those who argue it’s not the job of the community to help the disadvantaged. Rather, the government should be solely responsible for this task. What are your thoughts? Do we need more places like this?
Buttons as currency? Do you think buttons are a good way to help the disenfranchised in a community? Or should it be up to the government to support those who can’t support themselves?
Buttons r currency in this unique restaurant. Pay it forward has new meaning. #eatery #buttons #payitforward #community
Hayes, M. (2017, April 3). Eatery’s Currency Concept Brings Hope to Hamilton’s Barton Street East. Retrieved from https://tgam.ca/2z50cXy