In an exciting move, theCOMMONS is now the country’s first inclusive community mall.
By Ashima Sethi
Last week, I was invited to grab brunch at Steps’ newest outpost at theCOMMONS Thonglor. Having always been a fan of Steps, an innovative, equality-focused social enterprise that supports young people with learning differences by giving them training and access to sustainable job opportunities, I jumped at the opportunity. The new café is located on the uppermost floor of the mall and is connected to the Little Pea Family Space, allowing parents the chance to tuck into delicious food while letting their children take part in various playgroups.
The café boasts a menu of delicacies fit for all-day dining, with plenty of options for diners with various dietary restrictions and allergies, spanning brunch favourites, desserts, and hearty mains. I opted to try their special Lunch set, priced at only THB 380, which comprises of an appetiser, main, and your choice of drink. To begin, I tucked into their hearty Roasted pumpkin soup, that was creamy and flavourful.
I then moved onto the Korean rice bowl that is topped with your choice of chicken or vegan sausage bites (I opted for the latter), purple cabbage, avocado, scallions, carrots, kimchi, and a delicious Korean-style mayo. To complement the meal, I ordered their Monsoon tropical iced tea, which was the perfect thirst-quencher for a hot day. Overall, the I thought the set was delicious and made even better by the ultra-affordable price tag, so you know where you should dine the next time you’re in Thonglor for brunch or lunch!
This was definitely not my first time visiting Steps for a bite, back in 2018 I had the pleasure of meeting CEO Max Simpson the team behind Steps at their Ekamai outlet. During my visit, I also spoke two two young Thai-Indian men about how being part of Steps not only gave them access to invaluable work experience, it also gave them access to a welcoming community that may otherwise be hard to find. Putting the piece together meant a lot to me, and I’ve kept tabs on Steps’ work ever since (you can read the full article here).
It’s important to recognise that statistically, there are more than two million people registered with disabilities in Thailand, but only a small percentage of them are employed. Steps’ mission is to change this. Over the years, the social enterpise has grown from having one branch in Bangkok to four: Soi 42, Ekamai 10, Soi 71, and now they’ve opened their doors inside of theCOMMONS Thonglor, transforming the bustling community mall into the first inclusive community mall in the entire country.
As with Steps’ other cafés, graduates and trainees from their vocational training centres are employed there, but the team’s contribution goes even further than just a new coffee shop. The enterprise’s qualified training staff are also available to offer diversity and inclusion training to vendors and tenants at theCOMMONS, who will then be invited to become employment partners. An example of the vendors is the Little Pea Family Space that connects directly to the café.
Founder of theCOMMONS, Vicharee Vichit-Vadakan has sat on the Steps advisory board for three years. She had this to say about the exciting collaboration: “It is with great excitement that we welcome Steps into theCOMMONS community. I have admired the good work that Steps has been doing for years and am happy we can finally support them in a more tangible way. We hope to raise awareness and be a small example of how businesses can employ those with learning differences and take the much needed steps toward becoming a truly inclusive community.”
Steps CEO, Max said: “This is a pivotal moment for Steps. If we really want to change the lives of our trainees, we have to change society and the way it treats people with learning differences. theCOMMONs has consistently broken the mould that other malls follow by prioritising community space over retail space. We’re hoping this partnership will show businesses across Thailand that we can all be part of the change – if we can run malls this way, why wouldn’t we?”
In putting the new space together, Steps also worked closely with architects from DIN Studio on a layout that is community-minded and accessible for all, with communal seating and space for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Steps also collaborated with Taejai, an online fundraising platform, to raise 300,000 THB that went into the development of their latest branch.
This Friday, Steps is hosting an annual Art Relief Auction in partnership with NIST. The event promises to be an evening filled with art, nibbles, and community values, with activities for kids of all ages. Buy your tickets here.
If you’d like to learn more about Steps’ centres and cafés, check out their platforms:
www.stepswiththeera.com | Instagram: @stepswiththeera | Facebook: @stepswiththeera