Much more than a coffee shop, a businessman or a chef, Fika owner Anthony Grice lives up to the spirit of community in the city, says Tanisha Cantrell.
Fika’s food is great. But you know what already. We’ve told you plenty of times.
More than that, Fika has become a hub where people can reach out for help, food, and support. The themes and exterior of this coffee shop may be Scandinavian, but owner Anthony Grice’s generosity is at its heart.
Over the past year the shop has burst with donations and, having decided to take matters into his own hands, Anthony has spent countless hours making food parcels for locals in need.
“There were everyday people not getting furlough pay and they were financially fucked basically. They had nothing, so they were coming to us and they were asking if I could get them any bits,” he said.
“These people weren’t just customers of the shop; these were friends of mine, but I said on social media I’m not going to share people’s information.
“It’s a pride thing, but people were struggling.”
This endeavour was personal to Anthony, he added: “I know what these people are going through, I remember not having much as a child growing up and struggling. They were days where there was no food in the house.
“I’m blessed that I am in this position now where I don’t have to worry about food.
“People don’t realise that it is just on our doorstep and it is so difficult.
“The government’s Feed-The-Family packages were just an insult, they were throwing scraps to a dog and I was disgusted by it. I said ‘whoever has these boxes bring it to me, and I’ll replace it for you’.”
Fika became a helping hand for the community but Anthony was contacted by Liverpool City Council asking him to stop his appeal.
Anthony said: “I thought they were going to help me, but they said I need to stop what I’m doing and instead refer all the people to them.
Anthony was nonplussed by the request but decided to end the appeal for other reasons.
“I would get 50 to 100 messages a day sometimes with people struggling and needing help.
“It started mentally draining the life out of me. It was so hard… the content of the messages.
“This was the whole city, not just the south of Liverpool. I would get the stories of why they were in these positions and it was so much. I wasn’t mentally prepared to deal with it on this scale.
“I had hardly any cakes out because I had no time to make them. So, in the end it was really impacting the business but also impacting myself mentally.
Anthony’s work was recognised when he was awarded The UK Outreach Community Connectors Award for his work providing food parcels, ensuring children had Christmas presents and funding family Christmas meals.
“I have said, if anyone is struggling, come to the shop and I’ll feed anyone. I’m not motivated by money; it doesn’t bother me.
“I would do it again, but hopefully I don’t need to.”
With an end to lockdown in sight, Anthony is gearing up for the hoped-for return of eat-in customers this Summer.
Anthony said: “I’m really looking forward to having people back, it’s that normality for people and people love coming to sit and I’m always there to chat with them.
“That’s the whole Fika concept, sit down and meet your friends. I want to get everyone going again, get everyone back together.
I want people to have a beer, enjoy some food and watch the entertainment…
Not only that, he’s considering his next Fika project, with an event on Woolton Road planned for the summer, with local food and restaurant traders, live music, dance and entertainment.
“I’m going to do a farmer’s market and I want independent businesses to take part. I want to put a big stage up and have artists who have been out of work for a long time, to start performing again, local dance schools, kids to do performances.
“I want people to have a beer, enjoy some food and watch the entertainment that will be on.”
A one-man creative whirlwind, he’s not stopping there.
“I would like to open another Fika, maybe open up in areas that you wouldn’t necessarily see a coffee shop and make it affordable for people who can’t afford to go to coffee shops, ” said Anthony.
“I’d like to have people who may be struggling to get a job or people who have just come out of prison and get them employed.”
Since opening Fika has inspired and amused locals with their occasionally wise, occasionally witty (and sometimes downright daft) messages, chalked on a blackboard.
Anthony said: “The board is to spread positivity and a bit of love, a bit of hope.
“If you’re having a shit day it can give you a little lift and every day, I get messages saying ‘thank you so much’ and that’s what it’s there for.”
“Some people message us and say they really needed that today, it picks people’s spirit up and puts life into perspective as well.