Inspirational coffee shop owner, Costas, has been going the extra mile for his community…
When we heard on the grape vine about a man who had been running half marathons for Bristol charities for the last fifteen years, it caught our attention. When we found out it was owner and master barista of one of the best coffee shops in Bristol, we couldn’t help but get the low-down.
Costa Kkolos has raised about £12,000 for the Bristol-based charity Next Link and totalled up roughly £25,000 for all the charities he’s run for over the years, including BRACE and St Peter’s Hospice. I caught up with him not long after the Bath half marathon, and with the Bristol half on the horizon he’s been keeping up his fitness with 10ks as well as keeping well-fuelled with great coffee!
The story begins
It all began, back when Avenue Café was based on Queen’s Square in the town centre. On an apparently ordinary day in walked Carol and ordered a coffee. Carol soon became a regular and struck up a friendship with barista and owner Costas. When the two got talking Costas discovered that Carol worked for a charity who support children and adults who have suffered from domestic abuse and they were looking for willing people to run and raise money for their cause. Costa signed up to without hesitation and never looked back.
“The money we raise for Next Link can be used to give children a treat like a holiday, but it’s main purpose it to provide the resources and provisions to allow these women and children to live a normal life – things like clean clothes and a place to stay,” Costas tells me. It opened his eyes to a the needs of other charities in the Bristol area. “Over the years I’ve run for a number of local charities like BUST a breast cancer charity, and BRACE who support those with alzheimer’s and dementia. I like to keep to local charities, as all are vying for funding and many have struggled after the economic downturn and local government funding was cut. Next Link is a constant for me, it was the first charity I ran for and I’m lucky that they sign me up every year without fail!”
Costa has mainly been running the Bristol and Bath half-marathons (although he has his eyes firmly on the new Bristol to Bath marathon coming up in October) and has been a constant Bristol fundraiser. He runs with the dedication and love that he shows his own coffee shop, now based in Emerson’s Green. It is a place for the community to relax, chill-out with friends and family and the food there is pretty awesome! It’s also where you’ll find Costas’ fans; with colleagues and family rallying support and sometimes even donning their running shoes to take part too.
Run for cause not competition
Despite the difference he has made to Bristol’s charities, Costas is a humble fund-raiser and it’s clear that he is driven by his heart. He admits to me that he’s not massive on training nor is he doggedly determined to beat his last time. “For me it’s always about raising money. I’m not hugely competitive and the causes these charities support are enough drive to keep me going. Of course, I like to be fit and healthy and this is one way of doing that, but I’m never out to break records or smash through my last time.” Costas words are inspiration to people like me, who find it a bit of an uphill challenge to run, let alone enter a half-marathon.
For those looking to put on their running shoes for the first time Costa has some helpful advice: “You don’t have to run for charity, but it makes it much more compelling. If you feel you’d like to do it, I say just sign up to an event that taking place. Perhaps get involved with a national charity to get started and you might find that spark – that special something that gets you going. For me it was running for Next Link; that was the beginning for me and I haven’t stopped. But remember, just as it’s not a competition, it’s not about the level of contribution. You don’t have to raise thousands to make difference.”
“So many runs are a real experience to take part in. Both the Bristol and Bath half marathons have grown over these last fifteen years; there’s a real sense of occasion behind them. There are bands and music along the way and those brave people who don outfits (we’re talking about the superheroes and the giant boob!) really spur you on; and that’s without mentioning the crowd.” There’s a real sense of taking part and community to these runs and no-wonder that appeals to Costas.
Avenue Café is a community café, and here Costas and his staff work with local schools and organisations as well as host plenty of activities. It’s here that the giant cheques are presented to each charity, key contributors are recognised and throughout a scrumptious buffet evening, speeches made and there is a real sense of celebration. On a day to day basis Costas has created an environment where people just want to be. When I asked him what his day looked like, Costas simply replies, “Well I get into the café about 8am to open at 8:30am and then I just have a lovely day.” The team at Avenue is small and valued and love being there. They have a strong, loyal following of customers and everyday is about interacting with their clientele and enjoying their environment.
So, what is this highly trained barista’s favourite coffee of choice? “It’s got to be a well-made macchiato – it’s short and not too milky!”
Thinking of popping along to Avenue Café? I’ve heard the cakes and coffee are divine, but don’t take my word for it, read a review here.