Thursday was a big day in Hartford’s Parkville community as a much-needed resource came by way of a restaurant.
The idea for Gather 55 came to be in the midst of the pandemic.
"We used to have a regular cafe, the Cafe at 55. And we used to have a community meals program that was in a church in downtown Hartford. And both of those things closed during the pandemic," said Molly Reynolds, café manager.
But the team at Hands on Hartford used a difficult time to help.
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"We thought 'wouldn't it be great to do something that could merge both of the programs?' and so we decided to open up Pay What You Can Cafe," Reynolds said.
And the model is exactly that. The restaurant welcomes anybody and everybody to sit down and have a good meal and the cost is whatever they can pay. If they can’t pay, they are still more than welcome to return but the mission is deeper than a meal.
"We live in this very divided world right now. And we all, you know, just retreat to our silos of people just like us. And we wanted to create something that invited people to step out of that, to be with people who aren't just like them and be in the community together," Reynolds said.
Some who dine at the restaurant say it's a welcome addition to the city.
"There’s some places you can go in Hartford and have a meal but it’s not like this restaurant style. The food is a lot better," Jeffrey Pettiford said. "I can come here, talk to people, and meet new people and have a good meal at the same time, so it’s a blessing."
The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. In October, the restaurant will expand to include dinner.