Svetlana Sky Creates a Cafe for Uniting

A Café for the Community

A professional artist, Svetlana arrived in the United States from Russia in 1991 and wasted no time building a supportive network of like-minded individuals. Inspired by her peers and the cultural renaissance of her new home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Svetlana opened Anyway Café with her business partner and good friend in 1995, creating a space to gather and reflect the color of her new life. The café was an immediate success. “We exhibited local artists and musicians performing every night from all over the world, which we still do today. People love to be there; they love the cultural exchange that’s happening.” Svetlana soon opened a second location in Brooklyn, which quickly began to thrive as well. Always prioritizing her customers, Svetlana’s loyal patrons have spanned the decades. “We’ve had people get married here and now come back with their grown children.”

 

An Uncertain Time

After three decades of small business ownership, Svetlana now faces an unprecedented challenge that impacts not only her own livelihood, but that of her staff as well. As the COVID-19 pandemic forces non-essential businesses to close their doors, Svetlana had no choice but to do the same, leaving her and her 20 employees to charter the foreseeable future without reliable employment. “We’ve been like a big family and we feel responsible for the people who work for us. These are musicians who aren’t being paid. These are regular people with families, young people who are making their living.”

 

A Community that Prevails

Yet Svetlana has learned that the bonds of her staff are able to withstand even the most challenging of times. “My team feels very connected. There’s so much support right now – people calling each other, sharing resources, sharing different ways to obtain help, and really taking care of each other. There are such strong ties between us.” The staff also recently created a GoFundMe page to raise support for the restaurant. In navigating so much uncertainty, Svetlana has been able to ease some of her financial insecurity by receiving a loan deferment from Accion for the next three months. “The bills are accumulating. We still have rent, utilities and insurance. Receiving the deferment was fantastic. It absolutely helps for now.”

 

As the owner of a business that represents everything the COVID-19 pandemic prohibits, Svetlana looks forward to one day bringing those elements back into her customers’ lives with more gratitude than ever before. “We’ve always been a place of gathering and uniting people. I know once we reopen our doors, our customers will be lining up because they’re going to be missing each other and us so much.” Svetlana also believes that while this time is difficult, there are lessons to learn and a brighter future to come of it. “I hope that at the other side, people will appreciate things that they took for granted. I believe that’s the good in this.”