Photo credit: Larry Hilton Jr.
On Friday, October 30, I pulled up onto the wide, bustling avenues of West Philadelphia with my interview team, ready to meet the owner of Sunflower’s Space Cakes.
It’s a brisk evening yet the air seems thick and strained. Only a few days prior, Philadelphia was loud and in distress as citizens protested the slaughter of 27 year old Walter Wallace Jr., another young black man killed at the hands of police.
The streets are quiet now, and police cars ride with windows completely closed while they push through traffic on their rounds, almost as if to render themselves invisible. The city of West Philadelphia continues to be seen and to thrive despite the imposed violence and injustice that threatens to collapse the walls on its most vulnerable citizens.
Yet, Nestled behind the walls of these historic, detached row homes lies Sunflower’s Space Cakes, a treasure hidden in plain sight as a form of resistance…a gem in West Philly.
About Sunflower’s Space Cakes and The Lair
Photo courtesy: Sunflower’s Spacecakes
Sunflower’s Space Cakes is a plant based vegan catering service that offers delicious entrees, desserts, and drinks for pickup or delivery. The treats are top notch and 420 friendly!
The company is owned and operated by Sammiyah “Sunflower” Taliaferro and her beautiful family. Sammiyah attributes a 2014 trip to Denver, Colorado, where she took a cannabis cooking class. That class was the grind that set Sunflower’s Space Cakes in motion. The “immediate need” for this service in Philadelphia, and Sunflower’s heed to the call has produced an active online business that also offers social events for private booking and reserved access.
The menu offers delicious, herb infused treats like cookies, brownies, lollipops, and rice krispie treats. But it’s Sunflower’s Space Cakes specialty items, such as the mango punch and Bailey’s banana pudding that really takes the cake. Everything is adequately sized and magnificently powerful. It’s hard not to want to purchase it all on the first visit. And everything is vegan!
“[We are] all plant based, no animal products!” Sammiyah exclaims while passing a blunt around the table during our visit, “Animals are our friends! We are higher beings, why are we feasting on flesh?” Wise words spoken from a master manifestor.
After years of developing and serving up great food, good vibes, and consistency in “visualizing the vortex”, The Lair is manifested.
The Lair is West Philadelphia’s premiere, members only, 420 vegan social club and event space, and the primary reason for our visit. When we were there, it was still being built up. Today, The Lair is a beautifully renovated space that provides a comfortable transition to the intimate social space cannabis lovers are already used to, plus it comes with dope snacks!
The Vibes at The Lair
From the moment we enter the door it feels peaceful. A gentleman (whom we later find out is Aqiyl, Sammiyah’s husband) greets us and compels us to move towards the heavy ganja smells from the large, dark foyer to the great room of the house. There is an oversized dining table with an array of smoking tools, at least 3 lighters, some inconsequential mail, and a large futuristic desktop computer that could store a world of information.
Behind the computer is the mastermind of the operation…Sammiyah, she stands to greet us with low eyes, high spirits, and a kind smile. Her energy is more than inviting, and the space is just the same.
We make our acquaintances and immediately get into business. Sammiyah moves about the house quickly to give us a tour. She leads us upstairs to what will be the main lounging space for The Lair. I imagine that we are documenting a hella black, hella proud episode of the next big home renovation show.
Some of the bones and brick of the home are still exposed but the vision is plain and beautiful. Sammiyah leads our team, carefully, out onto a part of the roof that will eventually be a balcony space for The Lair (which will be a perfect smoking spot when it’s finished), where we catch picturesque views of center city Philadelphia. The city glows beneath ethereal sunset light and I feel that the spirit of the place is evident. Family and tribe mentality cover the house like a blanket of protection that is fortified by its surroundings, and by the people that build and benefit from it.
The walls are being recovered one layer at a time, by the hands of willing vessels working towards the common goal of rebuilding the house. One such brother we met, Mr. Amun Re (whose name means “the hidden one of the truth”) shares his story with us and reminds us of the importance of the Sankofa, (a principle of the Twi language of Ghana meaning “go back and get it”). The relevance couldn’t be more timely, when Sammiyah reveals that the house is a family home. Applying Sankofa to this project heightens all of our vibrations to a reassuring silence, and as we bid Mr. Amun Re good night our spirits align to one great purpose… it’s time to smoke!
Photo credit: Larry Hilton Jr.
The Crew and Command Center at the Lair (and Sunflower’s Spacecakes)
Back downstairs, everyone is smiling and everyone is high—ly excited to be a part of this interview! The energy in the place is free and easy but no one is sitting idle. When a family member enters the room they wash hands, throw on gloves and get to work. There is always something to be done. The Sunflower team is a tight one, with all 5 key players effectively taking their positions to ensure smooth operation of the ship.
Samiyyah is the serious, soft natured commander. She is an accountant by trade while her husband Aqiyl Stephens El, along with her son and extended family, operate a family welding business. O.U.R. Welding has been serving the Tri-State area for over 20 years, building and fortifying safe structures for accessibility and housing. Aqiyl is also a Sunflower’s Space Cakes business partner. A King in his own right, he comes through with the assist for his Queen with quiet finesse in the lab.
As for the rest of the crew, there is Sammiyah’s niece, Shani, who fulfills the roles of multitudinous assistant and self-proclaimed “Snicklefritter”. Tonight she disappears into the kitchen, but sticks her head out periodically for command center updates and cypher tokes. Then, there is Sunflower’s neighbor and inherited son, Waffle, the baking and candies master, “Codename Kid Across the Street”. I dubbed him purveyor of dope vibes due to his choice of playlist and simultaneous expert candy pouring skills.
Photo credit: Larry Hilton Jr.
Later, we met Imhotep, nephew, official taste tester, and co-recipe developer, also lead fabricator at O.U.R Welding. His nature is also quiet but his presence is profound.
Everything and everyone moves synchronistically around the extra large table in the great room as they retreat to their respective working stations. This is the command center of the Sunflower Lair. Sammiyah explains, between infused cookie nibbles, how essential the family is to the success of The Lair. The beauty is that cannabis is in the center of it all.
“We are changing minds about cannabis. Getting rid of the stigma! If you can grow tomatoes, you can grow cannabis! People need to know that.”
There is an air of reassurance in the room, that we are all doing something magical just by being there (of COURSE we are..it’s members only).Whose really going to complain about a little “cannabis” when this glorious plant does so much to help people!?
“LIVE! From the Lair!”, How to experience the VORTEX
“LIVE! From the Lair,” Sammiyah croons while broadcasting across social media platforms. Every event is archived as often as possible, as long as the cyber police don’t keep Sunflower social media accounts on the run.
That night was one of the best nights I’ve had, socially, in a quite a while. I felt as if we were among good friends that we have known for a long time, and I suppose that’s how a cannabis social club vibe should be! Everything from the food, to the company and the knowledge shared by the Sunflower crew, helped to perpetuate the vortex experience.
The vortex is a magical space of existence that Sammiyah speaks of often, and even includes the idea on her vision wall. Good living, including the use of cannabis, helps us get there. Sunflower’s Space Cakes advocates for cannabis use as both a recreational and medicinal tool, even citing some of her clients as those who have experienced healing through “alternative” plant therapies.
3* Recommendations for 1st time visits
- Start out small- as I mentioned earlier of Sunflower’s Space Cakes, the portions are adequately sized and POWERFUL. $5 dab hits are a good choice for a week night visit or power packed budget visit. I’ve only hit dabs two times in my 10 year span as a cannabis consumer. Our visit to The Lair was the second time (The first was in California, only months prior to this visit to West Philadelphia. I realize I have some catching up to do in my cannabis “career”…please don’t unfollow). I enjoy the clean strength of the hit and the lasting effects.
- Mango Punch- flavored by terpenes, empowered by Sunflower’s Green Dragon tincture. We all know mangos turn up the wow-factor of a THC high, thanks to the myrcene terpene that intensifies and speeds up the effects. This entourage effect is perfect for experiencing the vortex of The Lair (and is especially helpful with anxiety reduction and relaxation).
- Sunday Brunch- ok, so I haven’t experienced this just yet, but I believe everyone should experience an elevated brunch at least once in their life. I’m positive that infused vegan sausages and pancakes would be satisfying to anyone looking to brighten their Sunday!
*Bonus- I also recommend becoming a member and visiting The Lair at least once a month and if you’re within 50 miles of Philadelphia. There is always something going on!
The Lair- A Healing Space
Most experienced hempy hearts understand that our sacred plant provides more than just recreational giggles. Cannabis is a master healer plant; every part of the herb can help solve a problem, heal a part of the body, or ease the spirit. The Lair provides a space for all of it. Words like “social” assist in translating cannabis from the shadows of underground talk, to the mainstream keywords used when discussing how we can make the world a better place.
Our experience in The Lair was preliminary. If it’s any indication of where cannabis is headed in casual spaces, Sunflower’s Space Cakes is the right ship to board.
Written by: Dom Hart
Edited by: Veronica Castillo