Above: Gratitude Cafe and Bakery opened at 1551 N. Cotner Blvd. in 2013. Before she set up permanently at this location, owner Kat Cloran sold baked goods at farmers’ markets across Nebraska.
Kat Cloran knows you may have never heard of Gratitude Cafe & Bakery, but to her that’s part of being a small, community-driven business.
“It’s a lost place,” Cloran said. “There aren’t these places anywhere, hardly anymore.”
The corner shop, located in Bethany Heights, resides inside a restored bank building that dates back 100 years with tall windows and plenty of mismatched chairs and tables. Cloran opened Gratitude here in February 2013.
Cloran has been baking since childhood and began her culinary career making goodies for friends and family. In 2008, her circle of clients grew beyond that, and she started selling her goods at a farmer’s market under the name “Sweet Love Bakery.”
“Baking’s always just been easy for me,” she said. “So it’s not been something I’ve questioned.”
Also in 2008 Cloran opened up Groovy Guru Granola. A rigorous, three-year course of selling baked goods and granola at farmer’s markets and other community events ensued.
Looking for change in her life, Cloran devised a plan to move to New England. But while helping her friends find a building for their business, she came across one that was perfect for her own. She made the decision to buy it, restore it and stay in Lincoln.
“It was supposed to just be like a community spot and a place to make my granola,” she said.
The renovations lasted 15 months, and among them was a change in the name. “Sweet Love Bakery,” inspired by a Jason Mraz tune that pays homage to a California eatery, became Gratitude Cafe.
Gratitude began serving up pastries, coffee, granola and free hugs. The menu includes all vegetarian options and usually one vegan option; and Cloran likes to make sure that the ingredients are fresh.
“We do source about 80 percent of our ingredients locally,” Cloran said, “much of it is organic.”
They also sell items from both local vendors and fair trade charities, including Women for Women. Plus 1 percent of all Groovy Guru sales go to environmental organizations.
One of the most important things from the beginning, Cloran said, was becoming a part of the neighborhood. To her, opening up a cafe meant community first.
One way Gratitude makes that connection is by hosting live music and poetry readings. Every Friday and Saturday night, the shop’s open for extended hours to entertainers and audiences.
On the fourth Saturday of every month, Gratitude hosts a game night and writer’s workshop. These nights are open to anyone interested in sharing and getting feedback on their writing, relaxing with a game and some coffee, or any combination of the two.
Even on a quiet Saturday morning, the sense of family at Gratitude is clear (and not just because Cloran’s mother, Maralee, also works at the shop). When asked about her regulars, Cloran was able to list off everyone in the store by name.
One of these regulars is Paul Baker, the Lincoln songwriter that runs the writer’s workshop. His frequent visits to Gratitude inspired his own tribute song to the cafe.
After a little prodding by Cloran, Baker grabbed a guitar and sang the blues-y, smiley song solo for the room of friends.
“(Gratitude is) a neighborhood spot that every neighborhood used to have,” Cloran said.
A video of Baker performing Gratitude’s song, the list of pastries Gratitude rotates throughout the year, and more about the store can be found here.