Irina Lazareva

This week Kathryn Sutter spoke to Irina Lazareva, the force behind Sunshine Cafe and new business Sunshine Bazaar, both on Queen’s Road.  

I’m originally from Latvia and came to Hastings in 2009 for a change in lifestyle. My first job at 17 was as a waitress and I always thought I would one day own a business. In 2016 I opened Sunshine Café and I haven’t looked back since. The whole idea beyond the café was that it would be a community where different cultures could mix. I work with my partner Arturs, and we serve a mix of eastern European food to include Latvian, Bulgarian, Polish and Romanian dishes. Our customer base is very mixed and we welcome everyone, from Kurdish people to Albanian people etc, everyone is welcome. On Wednesdays we have a half price day which brings many regulars in. I do a bit of everything from cooking to serving and working at the bar, and I like to make sure my customers know I am there for them. I end up listening to a lot of my customers’ problems and I do what I can to help: we are there for each other. We have monthly BBQs, which often turn into a big party. Our vodka-based spirits, made using seasonal berries, are very popular; our current one is based on the sea-buckthorn berry. 

There is a good community on Queen’s Road and I am often called the ‘Mum’ of the street. We are so lucky to live in this town, especially with the sea – some people wait years to see the sea. I think we take it for granted. The cost-of-living crisis is making it harder for small businesses, with utility bills costing almost the same as our rent. However, I like a challenge, and on 17 June I opened a second business The Sunshine Bazaar, a deli selling a range of Eastern European foods. We hope it will be a success! I have now made my life in Hastings, and I am happy here. Yes, it is hard work, but  I think a life with no problems is boring! I thrive on the adrenaline of a new challenge!

Find Irina in the Sunshine Café and Sunshine Bazaar – both on Queen’s Road and on Facebook @Sunshine European café and Bar.

• Read our other residents celebrated in the series here

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