was one of the first coffee nooks I opened - Holiday Inn, Calgary. There was some kind
of big rodeo in town the weekend that I opened this one up. The
folks in town to enjoy the show seemed to be quite impressed with the
friendly service and delicious coffee right in their room - encouraging
me to open up more locations. Although - I did learn that it is
best not to surprise people too early with the sounds of getting the
coffee machine ready.
the customers from Calgary passed me his card, and suggested that he
thought the business would do well in his neck of the woods -
Woodinville, WA. He was right - I opened up a franchise here and
it was a hit straight off. Unfortunately, this particular
location closed about 3 weeks after I opened it because Starbucks
opened up a coffee shop right in the bathroom. Hard to compete
stop - Hong Kong. Here I made a few improvements to the setup,
allowing me to offer both coffee and tea. I also started to carry
bottled water. In Calgary, I offered thirsty customers a drink
from my bike water bottle, but most of them didn't want it.
Bottled water was more popular even though I charged for it. The
response to this nook was phenomenal and I knew that this would be a
hit in Hong Kong.
This was me in my first European operation - Lutton England. The
knowledge I gained in Hong Kong about how to make tea (it was
surprisingly easy) allowed me to get this outlet opened up in under 3
I took the red-eye back to Hong Kong to open a few more locations
because the first one was so popular. The news of my operation
had by now had gotten out to the general business community, and I was
approached by an investment capital company. I sold them
approximately 90% of the shares of my company in exchange for the use
of their photocopier. They wanted to push the business up-market
so I bought some fancy furniture. It's not just decorative - the
guy who staffs the nook sleeps in the cupboard on the right.
Hong Kong is a wealthy city - and the customers responded big time to
the move towards the high end. The investors steered me towards a
manufacturer of glass furntiure who they felt could continue to polish
my brand image. It was surprisingly inexpensive to buy all the
glass, but unfortunately it didn't fit together properly, and I
sustained a few cuts from sheets of glass which fell when the caulking
used to hold the nook together turned out to be toothpaste.
With Hong Kong virtually secured, I turned my attention to mainland
China. Xiamen, a Chinese resort city, was suggested as the
perfect place to start. Always the innovator, I decided to start
offering alcohol as an option to the breakfast drinks, as well as
Pringles and salty nuts, both of which are immensely popular. I
also learned that any liquid spilled onto shrimp chips starts off a
chemical chain reaction in the chips which causes severe diarreha
within minutes of consumption.
I am including this photo because it is a milestone for the
business - this was my first employee. We choose Shenzhen,
China - right smack in the middle some of the most crazy and competitve
industrial growth on the planet - to try out this expansion phase.
We were ready for the business to take off, so we waded in and
prepared for liftoff! The investors suggested these white robes as a
uniform, which looked great. Due to my natural distrust of
employees I did not allow him to handle the alochol.
Yep - that's me again. Like many businesses, the rapid growth
caused by hiring an employee proved to be too much of a strain on the
cash flow. We went bankrupt. But - I ended up getting all
the shares back and avoided having to pay any severance to my former
employee (who did end up have a drinking problem), so it was not all
that bad. I also lost my passport and so while I waited for the
new one to arrive I opened up a new nook in Shenzhen. Back to the
roots this time - note the simplicity of the nook.
I returned to Victoria, and one night after eating poutine in bed I
realized I had neglected a huge market - bed & breakfasts!
They are a natural fit for the coffee nook because you are
already a guest in someone's house, and therefore less surprised to see
someone in your room. This helps get around the awkward phase
that usually happens in a hotel room when I emerge from the closet or
curtains and offer up a coffee.
Following in the footsteps of the gold rush, I took a trip down to
California to rapidly open up a few more locations. I started in
San Franciso, where I figured that everyone from incredibly wealthy
hippies to Y2K specialists would dig the convenience of the in-room
coffee nook. Still keeping it simple here!
This was the tail end of my trip through California - Anaheim: The
happiest place on earth! I was damn happy to be heading home
after this one though. I was arrested by the Disneyland police
for wearing a Greek fisherman's hat and refusing to believe in magic.
I have also started experimenting with glass mugs that are larger
than a coffee pot, figuring it would speed up people's addiction to
This was not a hugely succesful outlet. I opened up a new nook at
a cheap motel in a sleazy neighbourhood of Calgary. Business was
not good. The motel was located across the street from "Hooters"
and the clientelle consisted mostly of oil rig workers in town to get
drunk. Needless to say, coffee was not a high priority for them.
There were no fights, but a number of customers did ask me to
get out and go ride on the waterslide.
I thought I'd include this photo to show people who think that this is
an easy job that they are wrong. There is considerable skill involved
in hiding in the curtains and remaining out of sight until it's coffee
time. Speed is essential when making coffee for a customer, and
you need to be nimble and exit the curtain smartly. One wrong
move and you blow the whole deal. That's what happened here - I
took a wrong turn and got trapped in the shears. The only way out
was to rip down the curtain rod and spin rapidly to shed myself of the
clingy material, which freaked the person out. After the police
left, the management of this hotel agreed to go with vertical
venetian blinds instead of these - a big improvement.