By Danielle Kutchel
2020 isn’t all bad news for Cranbourne-based café Larte.
In fact, the pandemic has forced manager Anthony and his staff to be creative – to ‘pivot’, to use the word du-jour.
More than just a café, Larte is a social enterprise that aims to change lives.
Larte provides employment for NDIS participants who may not receive those opportunities elsewhere. They’re given an opportunity to develop transferrable skills on-the-job that will stand them in good stead in future.
Like other cafes and restaurants, Larte was forced to close at the beginning of the pandemic.
Then came the first pivot: as product shortages plagued the major supermarkets, Anthony and the team began stocking essential groceries like milk, bread and frozen takeaway meals.
He was then contacted by the City of Casey: a donor had gifted money to provide meals to the homeless, would he be interested in supplying the meals?
Recognising the opportunity to keep his staff and participants on while contributing something good to the community, Anthony seized it with both hands. Since March, Larte has provided 4800 meals for the homeless.
They’ve donated 500 meals to Dandenong’s We Care to supply to other homeless communities.
And they’ve worked with the Aboriginal community in Doveton to provide a further 100 meals.
Deliveries became more important as the shutdown wore on.
Larte now delivers products to people as far away as 30 kilometres, with Anthony and his staff assuming the role of go-betweens as friends order for friends, grandparents for grandkids and parents for their children in other suburbs.
Often, they stay at the door and have a chat with the recipient.
“It’s not about the meal, it’s about the community connection of just listening to someone,” Anthony said.
Another pivot came more recently, in the form of what the café offers. They’ve moved into providing grazing boxes after a successful trial run on Father’s Day that saw Larte put together 144 boxes – far more than the 30 they anticipated.
They’re shaping up to be a best seller for Grand Final weekend too.
Anthony’s wife Sharon has used the pandemic to take a leap and pursue her dream of working on floral arrangements, which will be sold at the café from October 26.
They’re already providing popular as surprise gifts, with recipients often bursting into tears when the delivery arrives, according to Anthony.
Without Covid, he’s doubtful they would be doing this to the same extent. As it stands, Larte has been able to keep changing not only the lives of its employees, but those of community members too.
“Now, we’ve really entrenched ourselves in the community,” Anthony said.
“It’s been an amazing journey. We’ve been able to get creative. We have used that difficult opportunity at the time to be able to be that caring part of the community.”
Drop in to Larte at 65 Berwick-Cranbourne Rd Cranbourne East, and keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates, community events and more.