SCORE

Regulars at Grape Leaf Café might enjoy the irony that founder & owner Patience Buckwalter does not know how to cook. When faced with the sparkling array of kitchen tools at a recent photoshoot, she was totally at a loss for the proper knife to chop vegetables. Offering up her signature, bright grin, she was quick to give all culinary credit to the talented cooks from the women in the refugee and immigrant community in Lancaster. 

Patience Buckwalter is not often at a loss, and when she finds that she needs help, she is quick to seek the best available resources. Which is why in early September of 2017, she reached out to SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon to seek the guidance of a mentor for a dream that was forming. 

“My vision is to open up a café (for profit) called ‘Grape Leaf Café’ and sell food cooked by refugee women, but also have it connected with a non-profit that offers trauma-informed counseling, ESL classes, job readiness preparation and ultimately helps refugee and immigrant women successfully integrate into the workforce. I am a social worker by profession (LSW) and have a passion for women, specifically refugee & immigrant women. I also know that I am targeting a forgotten population once they are settled into their new community.

~ Patience Buckwalter, founder of Grape Leaf Café & Empowerment Center

SCORE mentor Sam Farmer began working with Patience to make this dream a reality by helping her to create a business plan and budget that aligned with her vision and keeping her on task with regular mentoring sessions. Sam also understood Patience’s strengths and focused on how they would help her to achieve her goals 

Patience strength is in recognizing the power that food has to bring people together and to serve as a bridge between cultures. It is also the empathy she feels for the refugee and immigrant families and the passion she has brought to helping them to find a way to resettle into new homes here in Lancaster. She combined both in her vision of Grape Leaf Café & Empowerment Center, an organization founded to bridge the gap for these families by providing a hub of services that include culturally sensitive case management and resources for as long as they are needed. 

In late June of this year, Patience opened a brick & mortar presence for Grape Leaf Café at 30 W. James Street. It is open Thursday through Saturday and features international dishes made by a half-dozen immigrant and refugee cooks, including those from Syria and Sudan. In July Grape Leaf Café drew the attention of a food writer for The New York Times that earned a mention for Najah Al Dakhil, a Syrian refugee who is the main cook at the café, in the article, “A Global Feast in an Unlikely Spot.” 

Now SCORE mentor Sam Farmer can join the queue at the takeout window at Grape Leaf Café for a Chicken Shawarma before stopping by to check on his client’s progress. There is still much to do as the pair look ahead at marketing, funding, and budgets and Patience is grateful to have a mentor’s skills at strategy and business growth on her team as she prepared for the future.

“Whether you are planning your next small business or nonprofit seeking guidance and support can help you and your vision! My mentor was able to challenge me to see the side of the business that I needed to learn to help Grape Leaf Cafe & Empowerment Center. I have been blessed with so many mentors in my life to help guide me, and it just felt natural to seek out another mentor at SCORE!”

~ Patience Buckwalter, founder of Grape Leaf Café & Empowerment Center