Today my morning was full of Cozy Cafe. First I received this note from DECA member and my friend, Helen, who had Cozy Cafe cater a party on the weekend…
“I was hosting a party for 80 people and needed help with the food! A frequent visitor to Cozy Cafe, I had noticed a sign that said they did catering and thought I would ask about it. I am so glad that I did! Vera and Slavicia were so helpful in choosing what and how much to order. They have a huge variety and were flexible to what I wanted and needed. The food was freshly made and not only was it delicious, but it also looked great (my photos don’t do it justice). They are very creative and thoughtful about how things will work together in terms of taste and presentation. And to top it all off, their prices are very reasonable. The food was a huge hit at our party and I would recommend their catering to anyone.”
Then I opened up the Toronto Star to see Catherine Porter’s Cozy column…
A Cozy Corner That Warms A Danforth Community
By Catherine Porter
I set out from my sleepy home early yesterday morning to make bread with the Cozy Café sisters and dance.
Yes, dance —in a line, “kolo” style, hands joined, chests proud like a turkey, while the multigrain dough rises and the challah tumbles in a mixer.
The dancing is their secret ingredient, transforming their customers into friends.
It’s likely what has saved their business — so far.
“It’s the magic circle,” says Slavica Bodiroga, the willowy one, shaping the still-warm dough into balls. “The more you dance, the more energy you have.”
“This is the energy,” agrees her older sister, Vera Krasabac, who is the pastry expert and the dreamer, the one who leans over a counter, hand on chin, talking to customers. “We give a lot. We are still giving even though we are broke. There are things we appreciate. We are happy. That’s why we dance.”
The sisters are from Serbia. Krasabac came first, Bodiroga had to follow, such is their love. They started baking bread for survival — they were too broke to afford anything but pre-sliced rye from the local Valumart, which even their children refused to eat.
“In our culture, bread means a lot,” says Krasabac. “Our bakeries are open 24 hours and there are always people in them. We always eat fresh bread.”
Next came the pastries and the cakes and the spanikopita, stretched to two metres.
They opened a European-style delicatessen at the cheap end of the Danforth, near Woodbine, where the boutiques are filled with second-hand clothes, because the price was right. They named it the Cozy Café, but there was no money for Starbucks-style lounge chairs or mood lighting. What made it cozy is them.
“You can taste the love in the food,” says Paul Zevenhuizen, a violinist with the Canadian Opera Company who drops in twice a day to get his tray filled up with lasagna and croissants and Tuscan soup, half of which he isn’t asked to pay for. “I worry their generosity be their undoing.”
He was right to be worried. Three weeks ago, the electricity was cut. They hadn’t paid their bill.
“It was dark; it was quiet,” says Krasabac, 45. “We sat on the couch and laughed for five minutes. Then we fell asleep.”
“It wasn’t depressing,” says Bodiroga, 37. “You have to look at the other side. It was a day off.”
Two days later, one of their regulars asked about the blackout. They told him the truth. He is a contractor, it turns out. Next weekend, he’s redoing their floor and electrical wiring for free.
A local graphic designer is planning a new sign and brand for the store. A nearby pet store owner is offering coupons to her customers for the café. And while I stepped out yesterday to take my daughter to school, Zevenhuizen dropped off a $1000 cheque.
What we lack in style in the east end, we make up for in community. We savour the good things we have. (An admission: I regularly dash into the Cozy en route to work to write out their specials on a chalk board, because I have nice penmanship and I am smitten, too.)
“Even in my country, I never had that kind of love,” says Krasabac.
With all this talking, we don’t get down to dancing till after the lunch rush, the last of the schnitzel frying on the stove. They choose a cowboy song.
The sisters grab my hands, one on each side, and we shuffle to the right, faster and faster, until Bodiroga barks and Krasabac twists her arm around like the bread mixer.
The woman who works at the nearby bulk store pokes her head into the kitchen. She’s asked the sisters for their secret to happiness, which glows all the way down the block, she says. She now has her answer, watching us dance.
“This is the part of the puzzle I’ve been wondering about,” she says. “It’s this neighbourhood. And you are part of it.”