When is a phone box not a phone box? When a clever husband and wife team get their hands on it. In 2015, Umar Khalid and Alona Guerra were considering a coffee stall in London’s Portobello Street when a Facebook advert caught their eye.
The Red Kiosk Company was offering red phone boxes for rent and one was shown that had been converted into a coffee shop in Brighton. It was a light-bulb moment.
Two days later, and with some enviable DIY skills, Umar had converted the booth into a coffee kiosk. While the business licence was organised by the company, Umar and Alona had to apply for a street traders’ license, something that took a fair few months. But once that was in place there has been no stopping them.
In March this year, those passing Hampstead High Street’s newest phone box stopped to do a double take. Kape Barako opened offering coffee and tea delights and a selection of pastries. “Space is limited,” says Umar, “so I can only sell a few items but what we can offer is good.” And the name? “Alona hails from the Philippines and there, cafes are known as Kape while Barako is a famous coffee variety,” he says.
The response to Kape Barako has been overwhelmingly positive, with many commenting on what a good idea it is as they stop for their morning cup of coffee. For Umar, who works the kiosk, it is a delight to see the joy on people’s faces when they realise the phone box is a coffee emporium. He is also especially proud of being able to help preserve the iconic red phone boxes across London that have been disappearing through lack of use. The venture is proving so popular that he already has his sights set on more phone-box suprises, perhaps an ice cream parlour in the summer months..? watch this space.