Sunday, 12 September 2010

Coffee withdrawals

For around thirty two months I had a coffee almost daily whilst at work. There was a lucky break for the people at my academy a few months after starting at my workplace when a coffee shop opened up directly underneath my office. I've liked coffee for a long time but became a regular drinker after this place opened up.

For over two and a half years I supported the shop. I sometimes had two drinks a day and it was not uncommon for myself to go on a weekend with my wife. But the place was never full, despite the owners best efforts people didn't go in too often probably due to it's location and the fact you don't walk past it because it's on the second floor. That was one of it's charms, the fact you could go in and and drink in peace and quiet.

Other co-workers would go in too but I was probably her best customer over the period the shop was open based on what I saw when I was in. The coffee was good too and remarkable cheap at 2,800won (£1.50) for a take out latte. I find it hard going to Starbucks now and a few of the other famous chains here because I really enjoyed the way I was having my coffee.

Also, the owner was great, friendly, helpful and always wanted to make the best coffee for the customer. She even let us use her wi-fi when we were in the office at work. But about two weeks ago it closed. You could tell it was going to happen as two women were being trained by the owner during the daytime. It seemed a bit odd at first but I guessed they were going to run things in the future.

Starting a new business must be a stressful thing whatever your business is. With so many variables that can dictate how well things go I'm not inclined to give it a go. From an outsider, starting a business here in Korea could be very stressful indeed. Live here long enough and you will see hundreds of places open only for them to be replaced (seemingly) almost overnight sometimes..

Do shop and restaurant owners quit if they fail? Do they give it another go in another location or do they try a totally different venture altogether? Where do they get their money from? Do banks continue to lend money even though we live in difficult times? Are the risks worth taking? Certainly Koreans are very industrious and hard working and also from my eyes somewhat entrepreneurial. But starting a business here is fraught with danger. It's a competitive country these days.

There is another coffee shop down the road from work, just two or three minutes walk. I went in last week and walked out an unhappy customer. As I drank my overpriced foam I pined for the old shop. Today my wife went into the place directly below the old coffee shop and bought some food. She found out what the ex-coffee shop owner was doing now and what would become of the place. It turns out they are planning to sell coffee, tea, and pasta - sounds like a restaurant or possibly what they call res-cafes here. Hopefully I can get one more cup of coffee for the road.


Anonymous said...

Such a sad story! I love the little non-chain shops. Usually their coffee is better and the service great. I hope the owners find success and happiness with their next endeavor.

Talking to myself said...

It is sad for her. She worked very hard. 11am-11pm every night on her own. Damn good coffee too

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