After serving coffee, cakes, burgers and sandwiches to patients, visitors and staff at the Cayman Islands Hospital for 35 years, the Pink Ladies Coffee Shop is closing.
The Pink Ladies announced “with sadness” Tuesday that its management and operation of the coffee shop will end on Dec. 16. The premises will be handed back to the Health Services Authority by the end of the year.
In a statement, the volunteer organization said, “The decision to close has been extremely difficult and has not been made lightly, but has come about as we have seen a steady downturn in the number of volunteers available to assist in the running of the Coffee Shop and our associated trolley service, along with the increasing costs of running a business.”
Pink Ladies Director Jane Moon told the Cayman Compass that the coffee shop, which serves breakfast and lunch five days a week, ideally needs around 20 volunteers – two per shift – throughout the week to run the service.
“Now, we’re down to about half a dozen volunteers,” she said.
The costs of running the coffee shop have increased and with fewer volunteers, paid staff were needed to operate it, she said. The coffee shop currently has five staff members.
“The coffee shop is run as a service as much as we can; we don’t run it commercially. We try to maintain the lowest prices we can, but we can only do that if we have the volunteer labor,” she said.
She added that closing the coffee shop means that the group’s members will have more time to devote to other volunteer activities, such as hospital visits and working with the Pines Retirement Home and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.
“We are a volunteer group …. Running a business is not what the Pink Ladies should be doing,” she said.
The group has a membership of about 100, with 30 to 40 active members.
The Pink Ladies group was founded in September 1980 by Olive Miller and Evelyn Andresen. In February 1981, Mrs. Andresen proposed the concept of the “Pink Hibiscus Coffee Shop” at the hospital “as a means of fundraising and offering a valuable service there,” the statement said.
After government provided a building (formerly the dental office at the front of the hospital) and equipment, and the National Council of Social Service (now the National Council of Voluntary Organisations) supplied a loan, the coffee shop opened for business on July 1, 1981.
At the time, the statement points out, the facilities were very small, with room for only two people to serve behind the counter and space for six or eight customers to buy food for takeaway. Meals were prepared at home and donated by the volunteers on their shift.
In 1987, the Pink Ladies Coffee Shop moved to its current, larger premises in the hospital. The first employee manager was Christine Boyko and although the business was a bigger operation, it was still manned by volunteers. That changed in 1997 when it became necessary to employ more staff.
In addition to the coffee shop, the Pink Ladies have a trolley service, which was started by Jan Archbold in 2003.
Business put up for bids
Ms. Moon said she understood the Health Services Authority was keen to have a dining facility at the site and plans to put the business out to tender.
Lizzette Yearwood, CEO of the Health Services Authority, confirmed that the hospital is in the process of preparing a tender, with the aim of publishing it on Oct. 21.
“The Pink Ladies have provided a valuable service to the staff and guests of the HSA over the years and we are profoundly grateful to them and look forward to supporting them in their other community efforts,” she said.
The organization pointed out that closing the hospital coffee shop does not mean the end of the Pink Ladies, stating that they would continue to host the annual Christmas Tea and Bazaar. That event will be held at the Arts and Recreation Centre in Camana Bay on Dec. 3.
“It has been our pleasure and an honor to offer our service to the staff, patients and visitors of the hospital for 35 years and we are most grateful to the numerous volunteers who have assisted us, the customers who have supported us and our hard working team of employees,” the Pink Ladies said in the statement.