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Wondering Stories: Damast

In search of the following Wondering Story, Designregio Kortrijk matched entrepreneur Cindy Monnens of Kaffee Damast with creative agency Revista. Get ready for a story about food, drinks, jazz & fun!

At Kaffee Damast in Kortrijk, stories of the past are blended with stories of the present. The rich history of the flax industry intertwines with regional products and entrepreneurs of today. Above all, Kaffee Damast is a meeting point of passions: good food and drinks, positive entrepreneurship and, of course, jazz, the backbone of every story. Thus, there is no better way to introduce Kaffee Damast than through some jazz classics:


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Cindy Monnens: "I've come a long way, literally and figuratively. I was born in Germany, the daughter of a military man. My mother is from Ostbelgien. I have three sisters, and I have three daughters of my own, a real family of women (laughs). At one point, the Belgian military was called back from Germany. My father was one of the first to leave and got to choose his duty station. Since his only brother was living in De Panne, we ended up at Lombardsijde, by the sea. We lived at Oostduinkerke, where my mum started a catering business. I went to study in Ghent, and then followed my heart and ended up in Kortrijk. I have been living here since 1997. I first worked at some boutiques and then I ran La Bodeguita del Medio for several years with my then partner, who’s also the father of my daughters. Since 2014, Kaffee Damast is my home base. As an entrepreneur, I just can’t stand still.”

HOW EVERYTHING CAME TOGETHER AT DAMAST - 'All the things you are', Sonny Rollins

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“I launched Kaffee Damast on October 1, 2014. Somehow, everything I was looking for at the time, all the pieces of the puzzle, fell into place here. After working in the nightlife industry, I wanted a better work-life balance. At the same time, I wanted to get my hands dirty, not just own a restaurant without doing any work myself. From the start, I had a clear plan in mind and I managed to put it into action. This had to be a place where experience was key, and where I could unleash my creativity, through the interior design, the jazz music, a magazine including our menu, vintage elements, a reading table, a cozy bar. Not just any other museum bistro, but a place where you get triggered, a place that has a story to tell. And you can ‘read’ that story here everywhere: in the architecture, in our menu, on stage, etc.”

PARTNERING WITH THE MUSEUM - 'Alone together', Chet Baker

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“Whoever steps into Kaffee Damast also steps into a part of Kortrijk’s rich history, i.e. the history of the flax industry. The name of our bistro, by the way, refers to damask, a weaving technique. About a hundred years ago, flax was the most important industry in the Leie region. The British were its main customers, and they even had their own trading association in Kortrijk–The Linen Thread Company–which arranged group purchasing for spinning mills all over the world. Business was thriving so well that the Linen Thread Company built its own flax shipping house. That building nowadays houses both Kaffee Damast and Texture, the Museum of Flax and Textiles. The industrial past is also present in the materials used for the bistro, such as flax slabs on the walls and curtains made of coarse woven linen. This gives our bistro a little extra. Business people like to come here with international clients, because they can show them the past here, tell them the story behind the place. There is also a great interaction with the museum: we provide the catering for events at the museum, we exchange equipment, etc. And of course, many museum visitors find their way to the bistro, and vice versa.”

EMBEDDED IN THE REGION - 'Kind folk', Kenny Wheeler

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“Just as we are connected to this building, we are also connected to the region and its entrepreneurs. On our menu you will find several regional products, indicated by a little icon. The link with flax is never far away, either. For example, the table linen is from Libeco in Meulebeke, the number one flax weaving company in Belgium and top three in Europe. Our coffee supplier is Grootmoeders Koffie, founded by a flax worker in the 1930s. Bomma Denise, Piet Huysentruyt's mother, was the daughter of a flax worker, and used to cook traditional regional dishes at Kaffee Damast. Our bread is delivered by bakery De Knock in Heule, and our menu-magazine is designed and printed by Drukta in Kortrijk. Our pancakes are made with linseed, the seed of the flax plant. We also work together with tourist organisations. That’s the way I like it. I don't want to isolate myself, our bistro is deeply embedded in the region. Thus, we are also ambassadors for 'Het Lekkere Westen', a project by Westtoer and Tourism Leiestreek promoting tasty local food.”

IN LOVE WITH SAX AND JAZZ - 'Sonnymoon for two', Sonny Rollins

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“Music has always played a big part in my life, but even more so since I started playing the saxophone 13 years ago. My daughter and I registered for music school together, she chose the violin, I chose the saxophone. After just one year, my daughter gave up playing the violin, but I was hooked. The more progress I made, the more I was drawn to jazz. I didn't want to play off sheet music all the time, as they do in classical music, I wanted to break free. That's how I ended up with jazz. Sometimes I join the monthly jam sessions in Damast, but only late at night, because I get stage fright (laughs), and also, of course, because it’s not easy to switch between running the bistro and getting on stage. I’d like to prepare myself mentally before a performance. I now also play in a big band, the BbKey in Wevelgem. I'm the only woman, but I’m having a great time there. In a big band, you’re also less in the spotlight than during a jam session and that’s how I like it. My favourite sax player? Sonny Rollins! ‘Sonnymoon for two’ is one of my favourite songs.”

A JAZZY PLACE - 'It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing', Nina Simone

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“Just one month after Damast opened, I already organised a first improvisation night. Sax player Andy Declerck, my teacher at the time, became my partner in crime. He was looking for a place to rehearse with his quartet, so he didn't always have to practise at home. Eight years later, Andy still shows up every month. Pianist Stijn Engels has also been a musical partner from the very beginning. The Vlazz Jazz Jam Sessions, every third Sunday of the month, have since gained quite a reputation. Musicians come along to play from Ghent, Brussels and even Lille, bringing along new listeners with them. We’re not afraid to look beyond jazz from time to time, organising a Dinner & Dance, with Lindy Hop dancers The Cherry Dots. On Sundays, we also make room for dancers and vocalists–I’m particularly fond of soft jazz voices like Nina Simone, Lady Backbird and Chet Baker.”


Text and images by Ruth Desmit of Revista Media


With the WONDERING STORIES series, Designregio Kortrijk brings unique stories of companies, organisations or designers to life in its network, thanks to the unique input of copywriters and visual creatives. Designregio Kortrijk matches and guides.