Thursday, October 30, 2014

Buying a meal will feed a hungry neighbor at Feed the World Cafe

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
October 30, 2014

Patrick Mixis (Photo by Susan Andress)

Patrick Mixis was appalled to find out how many hungry people there are in Kalamazoo. So he set about opening a restaurant that will help feed them as its customers get fed. Zinta Aistars has the story on Feed the World Cafe.

It’s a stunning statistic: 24 percent of all households in Kalamazoo County qualify as ALICE households. ALICE is an acronym coined by United Way in collaboration with Rutgers University to designate Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed people who are working at one or more jobs, yet are still falling behind.

Forty percent of Michigan households, according to the ALICE Project, a report issued by United Way and Rutgers University, earn too little to afford basic needs.

In Kalamazoo County, 24 percent translates to more than 24,000 households, with more than another 17,000 households living under the poverty line. ALICE households, the report states, include both genders, young and old, and those of all races.

"I was taking a class at Western Michigan University on current social issues, including world hunger, and I was shocked to learn about some of these numbers," says Patrick Mixis, who graduated from WMU in the spring 2014 with a degree in food service management. 

"I thought, 'How devastating; so many people going hungry'," and then, he started thinking what he might do about it. One in six children, he learned, didn’t know from one day to the next if he or she would eat a meal that day.

"Patrick came to me with this idea about opening a restaurant that would share its profits with nonprofits feeding the hungry," says his mom, Debra Mixis. "I’ve been working with nonprofits for 25 years; I loved his idea. I got really excited, but I wanted him to finish school first. He held onto that idea for two years."

Good ideas don’t fade with time. As soon as he graduated, Patrick Mixis was ready to roll up his white, chef’s sleeves and get to work. 

"At least a quarter of my classes were culinary," he says. "I worked at Food Dance Cafe and and Monaco Bay. I interned at Casa Bolero and the chef there, Jared Dellario, mentored me as I developed the business idea. I worked at the microbrewery in Portage. John Tsui at Chinn Chinn gave me some great ideas with the start up and kitchen design."

Chef Howie Peak, now at the Radisson was another mentor. And more help came from John Mueller, professor of entrepreneurship at Western Michigan University. He helped Patrick develop the business plan that led to the purchase of the Blackeye Cafe after it came up for sale shortly after Patrick graduated. 

Debra Mixis and her business partner, Lori Shugars invested in the Blackeye Espresso Cafe at 7000 Stadium Drive, which will be the first Feed the World Cafe. It now serves coffee and lunch, but they were willing to turn it over to the young chef to bring about his idea. 

He brought his longtime friend and neighbor Kurt Shugars, Lori Shugars' son, on board to supervise the servers, while Patrick took on chef duties as kitchen manager. The new restaurant will be renamed Feed the World Cafe after a full kitchen is installed.

In September 2014, Mixis and Shugars, mothers and investors, were granted the last liquor license in Oshtemo Township, giving them permission to serve beer and wine at the new restaurant. 

"The Township issued us a tavern license when they heard what we were planning to do. They really liked the idea," says Debra Mixis.

The idea, now the plan: For each meal the restaurant sells, their nonprofit partners will receive a percentage of the profits to help feed the hungry in Kalamazoo County. Those partners include ...


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