A storefront on Germain Street in Saint John is undergoing a transformation as a local couple — and pair of LGBTQ2 advocates — look to create a so-called “safe space” for the city’s queer community.
Alice McKim and partner Mareike Hachemer took over what used to be Royal Hair Design on Sunday, with a vision for a space that’s part social club, part student resource centre.
They’re calling it Adoringly Shire — or “The Shire” for short.
“Our vision for the space is one of healing, fun, community, safety and a whole lot of plants because we are the Shire,” McKim says.
McKim, a former teacher, says she strives to see the space revamped with an “enchanted forest” theme — hence the plants.
From 12 p.m. until 1:15 p.m., the Shire will serve free lunches to LGBTQ2 students and allies from nearby schools.
This is thanks to food donated by Slocum & Ferris, a restaurant found down the street in Saint John’s City Market.
“It’s super important for kids to just come in, no stigma, and have something to eat,” says Joanna Killen, who co-owns Slocum & Ferris with partner Corey Dugas.
“Everyone deserves to have a meal every day,” Dugas adds.
In the afternoon, McKim says she and Hachemer will offer peer support sessions to those same youth.
The space will serve as something of an afterschool hangout when the school bells ring at the end of the day until 5 p.m.
From then on, McKim says she hopes to see the city’s broader LGBTQ2 community take advantage of the space for dining,
All without any money changing hands. Ever.
McKim and Hachemer say the space will be fueled by volunteers and donations.
Dozens of volunteers turned up on Sunday to help McKim and Hachemer start getting things set up by assembling donated furniture and carrying in a donated fridge.
Even the first month’s rent for the space was donated by the property’s owner.
“We announced this a month ago, trusting that the community would agree this is a space we need,” McKim says. “And we’ve been overwhelmed by the support.”
“We hope that the space will inspire people: inspire them to say ‘I could do art here’ or ‘let’s play board games here,'” Hachemer adds.
The space has a number of eclectic rooms separated by meandering hallways.
The pair paints a picture of private dining spaces, an art room, a board game space, and even the potential for an open mic venue.
While the move-in is still underway, the Shire opened the doors Monday morning.
The first free lunches will be served on Tuesday.