Can L.A.'s only LGBTQ-focused coffee shop survive? “In so many ways, Cuties is absolutely the reason why I’ve been able to survive in L.A.,” said Willow Fields, who moved here from Chicago three years ago.
This is what Cuties owners Virginia Bauman and Iris Bainum-Houle intended when they opened the business in July 2017. Both 34 and from Virginia, the pair wanted to create a casual hangout that’s welcoming to all members of the LGBTQ community, regardless of age or gender identity.
Such spaces are scarce.
Cuties has quickly become the daytime darling of L.A.’s queer social ecosystem. But despite a loyal customer base, Cuties — the only LGBTQ-focused coffee shop in L.A. — is fighting to stay open.
With its rainbow awning, doorway disco ball and hot pink-and-teal interior, Cuties signals that it is just such a place. The owners say they regularly receive emails from gender nonconforming customers who say that when they finally mustered enough courage to wear makeup or a dress, they chose to come to Cuties.
“There are people who come here presenting more authentically for the first time, every single day,” Bauman said.
It is this sense of purpose — to help queer people feel less isolated in a sprawling city — that makes Cuties unique. It also makes it expensive to run.
Bauman and Bainum-Houle launched a Patreon fundraiser to keep the business afloat amid a summertime slump. So far more than 400 people have committed to donating a combined $4,200 each month. That’s enough to keep Cuties open through September, said Bauman, who is a transgender woman. But the owners say they need to raise $12,000 a month to keep sponsoring events and paying their six employees. 📷: Nick Agro for the Los Angeles Times