By Marielle Songy, Mid-City Messenger
On Saturday (Jan. 14), Church Alley Café & Grocery on Canal Street will toast its 10th anniversary with champagne, king cake and a raffle benefitting Women With a Vision.
Owner Reneé Blanchard moved to New Orleans from Lafayette 12 years ago to work for the Waterkeeper Alliance after the BP Oil Spill. She helped fishermen collect data on the spill’s impacts, so they could get support for their community.
After that job ended, Blanchard missed service and helping others. This prompted her to open Church Alley as a place where she could serve the community and support local nonprofits.
“We started slowly,” Blanchard said. “It’s been an interesting experience. It’s not exactly what I thought I’d be doing, but it kept moving forward with work that gives back to the community.”
Since its inception, Church Alley has been where nonprofits can hold events free of charge. In addition, the shop does mutual aid, where people can bring product donations that are distributed to the community, such as tampons and diapers.
The café also holds fundraisers. The café’s current fundraiser is for Women With a Vision, an organization that works to improve marginalized women’s lives, families and communities by addressing the social conditions that hinder their health and well-being.
The raffle giveaway to be held at the Jan. 14 anniversary party includes donations from local businesses such as Mosquito Supper Club, Twelve Mile Limit and Tchoup Industries. The celebration will take place from 3 to 5 p.m.
Blanchard said she is grateful for the support. “What sets New Orleans apart is that our small businesses work together,” she said. “Every year I call other businesses and ask if they want to donate to a fundraiser; we’ve been able to raise as much as $5,000 for nonprofits by working together.”
Most important to Blanchard was when she was able to help raise money and goods for the victims of the 2016 floods in Louisiana. With the help of 11 other businesses and her faithful customers, she organized 57 trips of full carloads of donations across the state to those in need.
“We had 10 cars going out a day from the café,” she said. “Customers would pull up and ask us to fill up their car and give them an address. Some cars were going as far as St. Francisville and Baton Rouge. We were arranging meeting points where people could meet and help pass out supplies. It was an amazing experience.”
The café serves a selection of coffees such as espresso from Café Grumpy, a woman-owned coffee company out of New York, and selections from local coffee brands Hey! Café, Congregation, Pretty Coffee and Exile Coffee Roasters.
Coffee is available by the cup and by the pound, and cold brew can be purchased by the gallon.
Church Alley Café & Grocery boasts a full veggie-forward menu packed with sandwiches, bagels, salads and snacks. Highlights include a Fried Egg Sandwich with Cheddar, Avocado, and Greens; a Raw Veggie Bowl with greens, avocado, honey crisp apple, tomato, green onion and two eggs seasoned with house-infused olive oil, salt and pepper, and tahini; and a selection of pastries.
This year, the café will be expanding its pantry line of products. Church Alley at Home will include a selection of cookie dough, hummus, salsa, granola croutons and more.
“We want to make it easier for people to enjoy the Church Alley experience in the comfort of their home,” Blanchard said.
Church Alley Café & Grocery is open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.