After 15 years serving coffee to a loyal band of customers outside Bethnal Green Underground station, Frank Wang arrived at his roadside stall one morning to discover he had been closed down without warning.
After a six-month long campaign by his customers, backed by local MPs – Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs and London Mayor Sadiq Khan – TfL relented and allowed Wang to return.
Unfortunately, by this time, he had been forced to sell his cart and coffee machine just to make ends meet. Now, his supporters have launched a new crowdfunding campaign to raise the £10,000 needed to get him back into business. In return, Wang is offering everyone who donates £10 a free coffee.
Wang, 52, said he is grateful to feel so at home in Bethnal Green. He said: “I have been here for a long time and a lot of people come here. I make sure my coffee is below £2.”
“It’s for the community, even the homeless people. If people don’t have enough money, I tell them they can come back later and pay.”
Anyone who wants to help save Wang’s coffee stall can donate to the campaign here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-secure-franks-future.
Members of the community rallied again behind Wang at a meeting in Bethnal Green last week, discussing how to raise money for the new equipment and electricity he needs to stay in business. Wang, visibly amazed at the support of so many, said: “Thank you all so much for coming to help me.”
Mayor Biggs, a supporter and customer of Wang’s said: “We are looking at how we can facilitate a happy ending to this.”
Simon Woolley, 56, Director of Operation Black Vote, https://www.obv.org.uk/about-us a nonprofit organisation dedicated to promoting racial justice and who helped start the campaign. He said: “The reason we had so much success was because Frank was a good servant to the community, and the community rallied around him. Sometimes we can lose that sense of community.”
New equipment for Wang would cost “about £10,000.” This would cover the cost of a new, narrower cart to conform to new regulations and a new coffee machine to serve his many customers. £820 has currently been pledged to the campaign, with 34 days to go until the deadline for the target £10,000.
Members of the community brainstormed as to how they would raise so much in so little time. Many volunteered to stand outside Bethnal Green station and hand out leaflets. “These things start to work when they gain momentum,” said Woolley.
The new restaurant, Chiringuito, has declined to comment. Their site can be found here: https://www.chiringuito.co.uk/
A spokesperson for TfL said: “After working with Mr Wang we are delighted to have been able to find a way that allows him to continue to trade at Bethnal Green station. We recognize the key role of London’s small businesses–the services they deliver make up the vast majority of our commercial estate, and will always do so.”