Jihan, a creative entrepreneur, launched “Garage Souk” in 2018 as an affordable marketplace in Mar Mkhael, Lebanon. Facing challenges from crises and the pandemic, she expanded her vision to create “Books@Cafe” with Rawaa in Beirut’s Hamra area, an extension aiming to empower women and students. It offers a weekly Free/Semi-Free market for handmade crafters, recycling/upcycling, and waste management. Books@Cafe provides additional space for gathering, eating, drinking, reading, and reflection, promoting library resources and community building.

The cafe offers a diverse range of products and services, including vendor stands for local artisans, antique sections, bookshelves, international designer showcases, recyclable products, and a coffee shop/restaurant. It serves as a multifaceted space fostering sustainability and community engagement.

Books@Cafe received a significant grant of $20,880 from the Social Justice Incubation Program (SJIP), which was used strategically to prepare the cafe space, launch social media campaigns, recruit staff, promote recycling and upcycling, and organize events and workshops.

SJIP’s support extended beyond finances, resulting in increased community support, outreach, and successful engagement with the target audience.

Now fully operational, Books@Cafe serves as a dynamic community hub integrating cultural engagement, sustainability, and a unique marketplace.

From 2022 to 2023, Books@Cafe has had a substantial impact, including community partnerships, thousands of successful sales transactions, and over 200 walk-ins during a two-day book fair. The cafe’s commitment to cultural engagement, sustainability, and diverse offerings has established it as a thriving marketplace and a dynamic community hub.
Books@Cafe, is supported by a hybrid model of sales revenue, grants, and donations, which allows it to minimizes dependency on a single source, enabling flexibility and innovation in pursuing its mission as a dynamic community space. This initiative stands out with its diverse marketplace, literary focus, sustainability efforts, culinary experiences, and community engagement.

Looking ahead, Books@Cafe’s sustainability plan prioritizes environmental, economic, and social considerations, including continuing recycling efforts, supporting local businesses, and fostering community engagement. Expansion plans include indoor vendors, a library, and pop-up markets to increase accessibility and outreach. This commitment to adaptability, innovation, and community well-being ensures the cafe’s continued success as a vibrant and sustainable space.