When Matthew Cullipher opened the Hope Café and Tea House in 2017, he had two missions that he was trying to accomplish. The first mission was to provide a variety of delicious food and beverages that replicated the taste and feel of countries such as Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, and Italy. That mission has been easily accomplished with more to come on that.
But as a non-profit entity, the second mission of the Hope Café was to help children and adults living in extreme poverty. While that mission may never be fully realized, Cullipher and his organization have made a significant improvement in the lives of people less fortunate than many of us.
“You are not here merely to make a living, you are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson
The obvious question, to most people, is what would prompt him to take on such an enormous mission in countries that he was unfamiliar with. It began back in 1999 as Matt traveled to Peru for his initial visit with a church group. They went there to construct a new school for the children in the area. While on that mission, Matt was overwhelmed with the extreme poverty that he witnessed, the lack of food and water and the absence of educational opportunities for the people that lived there. Former NBA basketball player Magic Johnson once said, “All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.” That somebody happened to be Matt Cullipher. Since that trip, Matt has dedicated himself to helping people in several countries overcome poverty and a lack of educational opportunities through the proceeds generated through the Hope Café in collaboration with The People Project.
Founded by Cullipher over 15 years ago, The People Project is a charitable organization based in Syracuse, NY whose mission is to provide humanitarian support for families living in poverty around the world. It has provided assistance to more than 400,000 families in 15 countries globally. The People Project provides funding and support for humanitarian needs around the globe including food and water programs, orphanages, schools, and churches.
This important program has given away over $1,000,000 in aid worldwide. The Hope Café was opened to help fund The People Project's mission while also supporting families in Syracuse affected by drug addiction and homelessness. 100% of the profits from Hope Café’s operations are given to The People Project to support programs in New York and around the globe. Desmond Tutu once said that “hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” The Hope Café is bringing light to the world. In conjunction with the People Project, they have helped people in 13 countries and provided over 600,000 meals!
How do they generate the money to support these projects? Let’s start with the fact that the café has a wonderful and relaxing atmosphere. They begin by offering drinks that aren’t readily available at other cafés. It begins with Emoliente, which is a Peruvian classic offered by the vendors on the streets of Peru. It is made from toasted barley and herbs. and may also contain flax seeds, dried horsetail herbs, alfalfa leaves, plantain leaves, chamomile, or lemongrass. It can also be sweetened with citrus, honey, and cinnamon and has many health benefits. They also offer a variety of smooth coffee that smells as rich and wonderful as it tastes.
The cuisine is a fusion of American, Italian and Peruvian foods. Matt’s favorite item on the menu is the breakfast sandwich as it has a variety of flavors blended perfectly together. They offer home-made soups, main dishes and desserts that you’ll probably not find anywhere else in Central New York. Those offerings include delicious empanadas, Liege waffles (named for the town in Belgium), baclava and a Jack Daniel’s chicken sandwich.
“I can truly say that if it wasn’t for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Onondaga Community College, we would have had a much more difficult time starting this restaurant. There were so many interruptions and speed bumps to get through that we would not have been able to do this without the help of SBDC Advisor Mark Pitonzo. He helped us to formulate the strategy as well as help make that strategy come to life. Mark helped us to identify resources that were available to us in the community, create the business plan, structure financial projections including cash flow analysis and income statements, and helped us with our applications for financial assistance from the programs offered by the federal government because of the pandemic. This doesn’t happen without the guidance and support of the SBDC and Mark. We are very grateful!”
If you visit the Hope Café, you’re not only going to enjoy wonderful food and beverages, you’ll be dining with a purpose knowing that they are providing hope to those in need around the world with every meal!
Tim Robbins character in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”, Andy Dufresne, said “Hope is a good thing, maybe even the best of things, and good things never die,” And the Hope Café is one of the best of things in Central New York.
The Hope Café is located at 920 Old Liverpool Rd, Liverpool, NY 13088. Their phone number is (315) 451-5121. In addition to dining in, they offer curbside pickup and delivery.
For restaurant hours and other information, you can visit Hope Café on Facebook or at their website at www.hopecafeandtea.wixsite.com/hopecafe.
Visit The People Project website, a charitable organization based in Syracuse.
Article published in the 'The Central New York Business Journal' on November 4, 2021
Read articles and advice written by our very own Onondaga SBDC Business Advisors!