Freedom a la Cart is moving from its headquarters in Upper Arlington to downtown Columbus – and adding a cafe.

Freedom a la Cart Cafe + Bakery, planned at 123 E. Spring St., will serve fresh-baked pastries, scratch-made meals and locally roasted coffee, as well as favorites from the catering menu.

Officials of the nonprofit organization, which employs survivors of human trafficking, said they are moving their operation by summer 2020.

The cafe would be open for breakfast and lunch. It would open a few months after the organization’s catering wing, said Paula Haines, Freedom a la Cart executive director.

Haines said one of the reasons for the move was the need for space. The Upper Arlington site at 5000 Arlington Center Blvd. is 1,600 square feet, but the Spring Street address is 5,000 square feet, with an additional 2,500 square feet of basement space.

“We needed to get closer to our customers and closer to the women we’re serving,” Haines said. “And, obviously, it will give us the opportunity to hire more women and serve more women being in that proximity.”

BJ Lieberman has been hired as interim chef as Freedom a la Cart looks for a candidate for the position, Haines said.

The menu would include many breakfast-and-lunch classics, Haines said.

Meanwhile, catering will remain a vital part of operations, she said.

“We have a thriving business,” said Haines, who noted Freedom a la Cart is a drop-off caterer for OhioHealth, the Ohio Statehouse and Otterbein University.

“I’ve got an amazing group here,” she said. “They work really hard.”

The company has 21 employees – with 14 on the catering team – 11 of whom are survivors of human trafficking, Haines said.

Jessica Doone, 35, a former prostitute and addict, has been working at Freedom a la Cart for seven months.

“I’ve learned so much about myself and working with other people because I’ve been out of the workforce for so long, and when I was in the workforce before, I wasn’t sober,” said Doone, who has been sober for 3 1/2 years.

“What Freedom does for me is help me deal with all the life stuff – pay the bills and all the things I didn’t do before because I didn’t like the way it felt,” Doone said.

The job also provides a good social outlet, where survivors talk to each other about their struggles.

“It feels like we’re not alone,” she said. “There’s a lot of value in that.”

Freedom a la Cart was established in 2009 and spent a number of years based at the YMCA at 40 W. Long St. downtown. The company then moved to the Van Buren Shelter, 595 Van Buren Drive near Franklinton, where it managed the kitchen and continued its catering service, Haines said.

It has been in Upper Arlington since 2018.

“We’ve been working on this since 2014,” Haines said of the move to downtown Columbus. “It’s just amazing how the right place comes along at the right time.”

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary