“We started talking to people and it’s been an amazing experience. People are really supportive”, said Whitman.
To raise the last $25,000 needed, they are hosting a child-friendly launch party today at Left Foot Charley at the Grand Traverse Commons from 3-6 p.m., when they will kick off their crowd-funding campaign and answer questions.
Meanwhile, they have planned and collaborated with several local businesses.
Jennifer Blakeslee and Eric Patterson, Morsels Bakery, Higher Grounds Trading Company, and Light of Day Organics are helping them create a deli-style “grab and sit” menu for the café, including a fresh juice bar. They also teamed with several local professionals who will offer children’s classes, including music, art, gardening, yoga, songwriting and videography.
Whitman said they are designing an environmentally friendly, Scandinavian-inspired space with comfortable seating, wooden play structures, an infant area, classroom space, and a section where they will sell single diapers, baby food and other handy necessities a la carte. They also plan to hire six at least employees to run the operation.
Parents and grandparents are invited to become Elf members to help make the operation sustainable. Membership costs $50 per month and members receive access to Elf’s online community, unlimited access to play areas, discounted party rental rates, opportunity to participate in a community-supported agriculture program, and more.
“Membership is optional,” said Fred. “We want everyone to feel welcome.”
She said the owners plan to announce Elf’s location in the next few weeks, with a tentative grand opening date of May 1.
The concept resonates with the community, and already there’s talk of franchising opportunities.
“Our goal is to fulfill a need and to expand it to other areas. The idea is starting here, but assuming it’s successful, we’ll begin expanding both inside and outside of Michigan,” said Whitman.
They’ve already heard from interested parties in Wisconsin, Colorado and California.
“We’ve said to ourselves, ‘why doesn’t this exist already?’ said Whitman. “Elf Café is long overdue.”