Welcome to “Seven Minutes in Heaven” GO Magazine’s brand new interview series that profiles a different queer lady each day, by asking her seven custom (sometimes random) questions. Get to know the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the groundbreaking, fierce forces-of-nature in the queer community.
Kat McIver and Angie Evans always had a vision of the kind of cafe they wanted to open. The couple had worked in the service industry for years, continually seeing male dominated kitchens and not queer affirming spaces. With this in mind, they recently opened Wide Eyes Open Palm—a specialty coffee shop and cafe. They describe their business as a feminist and community space where the energy is healing.
With their “All Gender Restroom” sign and employee gender sensitivity training, they truly are creating a new standard of what can be if business owners put intention into creating safer spaces for the community around them. In speaking with Kat, I learned how this femme and butch dynamic duo created their space in Long Beach, Cali together with love. And I’m already planning my next West coast vacation so I can visit.
GO Magazine: What does it mean to have an LGBTQ and feminist centered business? Can you talk a little bit about the trainings your employees go through?
Kat McIver: I think that for us specifically being in the specialty coffee industry, it’s a very white male dominated industry. We wanted to provide a space where queer women and POC can come to a welcoming environment to not only drink amazing coffee but also get educated on how to roast and source eco-friendly beans. People want the information but they aren’t given a lot of space or license to do that. The energy of the space is so important to us–no matter what is happening in the world, our community can come here and feel safe.
That’s particularly important to me as a queer femme. Whenever I go to a coffee shop, dudes look at me like I’m there to entertain or service them. It’s so uncomfortable. There’s a 99% chance that won’t happen at our shop and you can be assured that no one behind the counter is going to misgender you. We have a lengthy employee handbook along with two trainings on gender sensitivity. Instead of saying “don’t do this, don’t do that,” we give our employees alternatives that will feel comfortable for customers. For example, instead of saying “That woman over there needs water,” we train them to say “The person in the red tee-shirt needs some water.” We train our employees that you don’t know someone’s gender by looking at them. We bring them back to using y’all and people or folks. My partner is a masculine presenting woman who gets called “lady” by servers all the time and it completely takes the winds out of your sails when that happens. It’s these micro-aggressions we all need to work on.
GO: How do you ensure your space is accessible to all bodies and classes of people?
KM: It was really interesting when we built the cafe from scratch. We got to become familiar with the very intricate requirements of Americans of Disabilities Act to make sure we were ADA compliant. My older sister is disabled and in a wheelchair most of the time so it was really important to me to ensure that anyone who has special needs or abilities can move freely in our space. Our employees know it’s an all hands on deck situation if we need to move chairs around to make sure all of our customers are comfortable. Everything in the space is accessible.
In Long Beach, particularly for me in the coffee industry, I see this type of aesthetic that makes working class people not feel welcome. We have done community work and spent years at the local farmer’s markets in our neighborhoods building relationships and connections with our neighbors. You can see the city going through gentrification and it’s important to us that working class and POC know this space is accessible and welcome to them. We offer a $5 luxury with an amazing cup of coffee and great conversation about where it came from. Coffee is an everyday thing and we hope to build that type of environment.
GO: What can customers expect from their first visit to your cafe?
KM: I think that we get a lot of people from all over the world coming to LA and Long Beach. Coming in for the first time, everyone usually comments on the energy. It’s the first thing you feel, even before you walk through the door. It has a strong and positive presence that people remark on, even from seeing the open umbrella out front. I think it’s because of all the amazing people who work here. Before we opened, we did a lot of spiritual work in the space we built this—we did a blessing. That’s the number one thing you can expect, happy friendly people and a homey kind of experience. We want people to feel nourished and welcome.
Because NO ONE should feel uncomfortable using the restroom. #allgenderlovingestablishment #itisjustarestroom #butyoubetterputthetoiletseatdown #thankyou #lgbtqbusiness #lesbianownedbusiness #womanownedbusiness #feministbusiness #queerbusiness #queerestcoffeeintown #queercoffee #youcanpeenexttome #areyouaboyoragirl
GO: Have you ever had anyone question why you have an “All Gender Restroom” sign?
KM: I think the first two times it happened, I was taken aback. One of them was a city employee who came to do an inspection, we were the first sign of that nature he had seen. I was alone in the space and I often get assumed I’m straight, so it definitely made me nervous.
I’ve gotten better at having responses for people when they make a remark on the sign or don’t like it in any way. Some people don’t see it as important but a lot of queer people who come into the space are so grateful. I mean, is it so hard to let people go into the bathroom at peace? Whatever your gender is, we don’t care and you’re welcome here.
GO: What has been your favorite part of building Wide Eyes Open Palms?
KM: You know, I love feeling like I’m in service to my community and I feel blessed to have this space I get to collaborate and create in. I think we’re doing something unique and I get to do it with my partner of 8 years. Everyday I get to go to work and love what I do. I’ve worked in the service industry for a long time and I always had this dream. A safe space for women and queer people with beautiful food and integrity.
GO: Plans on the horizon?
KM: Angie has taught workshops on how to taste and brew coffee so she has a stockpile of workshops that we’re looking forward to. We’re only 3 months since when we opened but we have so many future goals. We’d love to involve local community organizers and the Black Lives Matter chapter to do events here. We have an opportunity to make the space available for others and we’d love to do that. We want to ensure our business remains steady and sustainable. We’re not trying to go too crazy, too fast but hopefully, we’ll be able to extend hours and get a beer and wine license soon. So many 10-year plans!
GO: Where can people find you?
KM: Follow us on Instagram and come to the shop and say hi!