CAFE IF started off as a blog run by Chinese Canadian owner Ai Zhang. After moving to the US, she yearned for a space to connect with like-minded people from different backgrounds, so she decided to create a virtual space for friends to embrace unfamiliar possibilities and share their own personal journeys. When she moved from New York to Los Angeles in 2015, she needed to get to know another new place and carve out a social space. So in May of 2016, CAFE IF was reborn as a physical cafe in WeHo. Zhang said the neighborhood has been very supportive of the business, and she often discusses her personal thoughts about cultural differences and language barriers with her customers. In the past year, they’ve had to shorten hours and go from an afternoon gathering spot to a morning takeaway business, but she’s still found ways to foster connection, mostly through Instagram rather than at the cafe. Regardless of the pandemic, she said her business needs to catch up to thrive in an online-focused world, but she still values human interactions and hopes to stay true to her initial mission in whatever form it takes.
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