Wicked Grounds, a café in San Francisco that has catered to the kink community for years, has struggled to stay open in recent years and has turned to crowdsourcing stay afloat.
The shop sits just feet from Folsom Street, where the Folsom Street Leather Festival is held every year. But the neighborhood has changed in the nine years since Wicked Grounds first opened.
"This was the old gay leather district going back about 40 years," cafe owner Rebecca Vilodeau said. "So we really operate as a community hub."
Like other specialty businesses in San Francisco, it’s become a challenge to for the niche cafe to stay open, even with its dedicated customer base. So Vilodeau has asked her customers to pitch in by buying a subscription to the café.
"When I bought in 2014, we had a four-year plan for sustainability, and the subscriptions to the patron are really the last piece of that," she said.
Beyond the leather, kink and LGBTQ community in the city, Wicked Grounds also is one of the few local cafés to stay open late.
"I think it’s wonderful. I think there’s not much open this late for a nightshift worker," customer Bruce Langley said. "People have places on the day shift to stop and have a cup of coffee or a bite to eat."
Thanks to an appeal on social media this week, the café managed to raise $20,000 in subcriptions and will remain open.
Some of the most popular items on the Wicked Grounds menu, according to Vilodeau are: a highly caffeinated coffee brew; a white chocolate mocha shake; and bondage rope.
In 2015, when the city raised the minimum wage, the same crowdsourcing strategy was used at a few small bookstores.