{3/31 days} the concept

This is day 3 of my 31 days with coffee shop stories. Welcome.

It’s almost tomorrow and I am late on my post for today, the one about concept. But here it is, hope you’ll enjoy it.

I graduated a PR and communication university, worked in marketing for Milka team in Kraft Foods Romania and was about to open a coffee shop. So I knew that we had to have a concept. A unique touch on things. Something to set us apart from all the coffee shops that were being opened in the beginning of 2008. Back then, there were very few places in the city where you could go have fun and learn something in the same time. It struck me while I was reading an article on edutainment. This was the niche we were searching for.

books in the living room

Edutainment is that concept that beautifully combines education and entertainment, but not necessarily in the form of a hobby workshop. Like, for example, when you go to a play, and you a receive a booklet about the history of the genre. Or you decide to dine out and the waiter can tell you a couple of words about the wine or the condiments used by the chef. Or a nice photo exhibition in the hallway of a party house. It’s that sort of combination that teaches you something without you being actually taught, like in school. You can go ahead and have fun and enjoy your dinner, but still leave with the fact that carmenere grape takes its name from the deep crimson color of the foliage in autumn and the best carmenere wines are produced in Chile. This sort of information sticks to you differently if you are in class, or enjoying a perfectly cooked veal.

This is what we wanted to do. But it had to be something more. We knew we will pack the coffee shop with books, host readings, tastings, workshops, exhibitions, concerts, teach the employees about what they sell and why they do it. But we felt there was something missing on the entertainment part. Coffee shops in Bucharest were noisy back then, and aggressive and unfriendly in that sort of way. So we had to create the perfect conditions for the edu part of edutainment to stick.

And, I have to admit. We were a bit selfish, too. We wanted to own a coffee shop where we could feel comfortable, so that we could move our daily routine there. Actually, it was somehow the other way around. We knew we were about to set foot in the coffee shop and don’t leave that place for a couple of years, so we wanted to feel good. Feel at home. What better way to accomplish this than to create a place that was a mirror image of ourselves? Funky, friendly, respectful. Admittedly, a bit messy. And full of all the things that we liked. Music, books, good food and drinks, peace and quiet. Everybody could feet at home there, but away from home.

Talking about the beginning with our manager (hired in 2010), he was amazed at this decision – to make a living room out of the coffee shop. This is one thing we never thought of putting in our business plan. We never thought to count how many people would feel at ease with this idea. We knew there are plenty of people going out, but would there be enough of them to fill a coffee shop that would look and feel like a living room? We didn’t know. Didn’t even care to ask. It just felt right.

Almost 5 years in this business, and our coffee shops are still like living rooms away from home. People leave their laptops, umbrellas, jackets. They take off their shoes, cuddle on the sofa and read. Meet their in-laws, business partners, high-school best friends. Play board games. Cry, laugh, chat, work, relax, make friends. It’s fun and cosy. It’s our niche and, even though other edutainment venues opened during the last years, which is great – we need more of those, we have our living room to be very proud of.

See you tomorrow, then. The topic is a secret. For me, too.

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