Zakar Hussain’s life over the past three years has all the trappings of an Ealing Studios movie – British-Pakistani boy who grew up making wraps and chutneys in his uncle’s restaurants, moves from Birmingham to London to study catering at Thames Valley University (now the University of West London, on St Mary’s Road). He falls in love with Ealing, and decides to fulfil his dream of opening an Asian street-food cafe cheerily called “Green Mango Cafe” on just the perfect spot: The Green, in Ealing…
But Zak’s story is still caught in the limbo between a happy ending and disaster, because after just five months of opening his cafe, he loses everything: the London Riots of 2011 sees his new shop, his livelihood, his savings of ten years, gone, washed away. Now, having exhausted all other forms of funding, Zak has turned to the local community to help; crowdfunding-style, he is asking for financial donations from the public, via Paypal or credit card on his website www.greenmangocafe.co.uk.
“Help me to rebuild my business,” he says in this Contactus video, “Any donations, I’d really appreciate it … please, [donate] whatever you can, help a small business like mine, and help me rebuild the community.”
“The weather’s getting warmer, I want to reopen soon!” says Zak, having a skinny latte now in somebody else’s cafe elsewhere on The Green in March 2013. It’s just about two years since he opened Green Mango Cafe, and also, actually, just about two years since he suffered the worst thing that could happen to his business. The rioters had attacked stores on The Green, a row of small indie and semi-indie shops just off Ealing Broadway, and set fire to the convenience shop on the corner, Ealing Local. The water damage from the fire services putting out the fire next door warped the café’s wooden floors, flooded his basement and ruined equipment, stocks and furnishings.
“I never expected this,” he adds. “When you start up a business, you never imagine something like this could happen. Like the insurers said, it’s like an ‘act of God’.” It’s the nitty-gritty of his insurance arrangement that has kept him back from starting up business again, but it’s not something he wants to go into much detail about.
“It’s hard to really explain why I’m the last shop to reopen,” says Zak, 36, a still-confident character who credits the gym for keeping him sane and who manages to joke about losing his hair over his business. He’s also had to delay wedding and family plans until his cafe is up and running again.
“Because of my circumstances, I couldn’t apply for the kind of funding that other riot-hit businesses could; I couldn’t get a lump sum on a plate enabling me to rebuild; I put my house up for sale, I’m trying to get another bank loan, I’ve borrowed money from everyone I know just to stay alive, to keep on top of the Council tax bills, the gas and electricity and wifi bills that keep coming.
“I’m still living the nightmare. There’s no roof on the shop, there’s mold and rust and water damage everywhere.”
Pathways, the local independent charity who own and lease out much of The Green, have given what assistance they can to help Zak recover, says Peter Thomas, head of finance at Pathways.
Other shops on The Green got off relatively lightly, and were able to quickly recover from smashed windows and some amount of looting.
The Khurmy family, owners of the burnt-out corner shop re-opened under the Spar brand in February 2013 (see our Contactus video from their reopening day here), to a nationwide hurrah.
Liz Pilgrim, who found herself the media spokesperson for Ealing’s riot-hit businesses, has moved on and up in her business, and no longer trades from The Green, but has moved her expanded babye boutique to brisk online sales, and relocated to bigger showroom-type facilities in Acton. Responding to Zak’s video plea for donations, she tweeted: “I hope Zak gets sorted soon.”
“Thirty-thousand pounds” is how much Zak says he needs to get building work done to a level where he can throw his doors open to customers again, to bring back to life the UK’s only Asian street food cafe. Zak Hussain hasn’t given up on Ealing, he hasn’t let go of his dream. So let’s work together to rebuild this cafe as a community, and give it our best support. Join us in donating to a local business cause – and help the Green Mango Cafe story to have a happy ending.
Contact Zak: firstname.lastname@example.org