Finding a moment of calm among the chaos isn’t always easy but business owner Charlotte Kay hopes her cafe FIKA Dundee provides people with a sense of peacefulness.
Speaking to The Courier from the Perth Road venue, Charlotte, who is currently on maternity leave from the business, looks to October 6, when FIKA will be celebrating its first birthday after opening during the pandemic.
But before revealing what she has in store for FIKA’s birthday week, which is set to be filled with events for foodies and creatives across Tayside, she looks back on a year like no other.
Working in hospitality on and off since the age of 14, it wasn’t until she’d moved to Dundee to study at Abertay that Charlotte got a taste for the local food and drink community.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own business. Throughout my life I’ve gone to do other things then always found my way back to working in hospitality. This time I was certain that I needed my own place,” she said.
“I studied paediatric nursing for a couple of years but I dropped out of that and moved to Dundee to go to Abertay to study for a food and consumer science degree.
“I still worked in hospitality during that. I used to actually work in this exact venue where FIKA is back when it was The Flame Tree Cafe. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to buy a business you’ve actually worked in.”
The meaning behind the name
FIKA (pronounced “fee-kah”) is a Swedish custom which means taking a break during which people drink coffee, eat cakes or other light snacks, and relax with others. This ethos is what Charlotte wanted the business to reflect.
She added: “I spent a bit of time in the cafe, before it was FIKA, in between finishing university and working. I’d had some mental health issues and I would just come here, sit and take time out of my day to have some coffee and a cake.
“That’s exactly what FIKA is all about. It’s a Swedish concept about taking time out of your day, either by yourself or with friends and family. Just to stop and appreciate the good things in life.
“That’s exactly what I want this place to represent. It’s for people to come, de-stress and re-cap.”
Setting up during a year of Covid hasn’t been easy, but luckily for Charlotte, customers have been spilling through the doors since they opened last October.
And although the venue was set to open last April, Charlotte wanted to wait until things calmed down during the pandemic to do so safely.
“I finally opened in October and went all the way through to December, before having to close for the second lockdown, and it was really popular.
“I’ve got a loyalty programme on our till, which means 10% of what you spend in FIKA gets converted into points and then you can redeem that off a hot drink or you can donate that hot drink to our Pay It Forward wall. Then someone else can take advantage of a free coffee instead.
“Within the first three months, there was about 400 customers on our loyalty programme.
“We’re up to nearly 700 people now and quite a lot of them are regular customers which is nice.”
Being based on the city’s Perth Road means that FIKA is among some of the city’s most well-established cafes and shops and part of a community that comprises students and hungry foodies.
“Being able to put my mark on it and just seeing the people on Perth Road is a highlight. When I was working in the shop before my maternity leave, I would always try to remember regular customer’s names, what their order was and just trying to make their experience personal.
“The majority of people who come in here for coffee will end up speaking to somebody on the table next to them and some of my customers have become friends through meeting here.”
Birthday week celebrations
Celebrating turning one in just under two weeks (October 6), FIKA will play host to several events throughout the week, starting with a market on Sunday, October 3.
- Sunday (Oct 3) – A pop-up fruit and veg market hosted by an organic farm based at Falkland Estate.
- Monday (Oct 4) – A mum and baby lunch. “It will be exclusive use of the cafe and will be available for eight mums and their babies. They’ll get a bowl of soup, a couple of sandwiches, something sweet to eat and a coffee,” says Charlotte.
- Tuesday (Oct 5) – To be confirmed.
- Wednesday (Oct 6) – A pop-up stall and tealight-making workshop by Woolly Jones, whose art has been on sale at FIKA since opening.
- Thursday (Oct 7) – A reading by a children’s author after school, with teepee tents set up by TeePee on Tay for children to sit in and enjoy.
- Friday (Oct 8) – A ticketed art exhibition.
- Saturday (Oct 9) – A pop-up stall by Mabels Bakery who makes biscuits, cakes and other treats for dogs.
“All of the events focus on collaborating with local producers and artists so that they can promote themselves as well. Working with one another rather than against each other is part of our ethos,” she added.
“Most of the events must be booked in advance, especially for the workshop as all the money will go to the artist. But they are also trying to keep numbers down to stay within coronavirus rules.