When I woke up this morning I tried not to check emails and the FB newsfeed. At least I decided to wait after I’d taken my Foxterrier for a walk. Shortly after I drifted into the old routine of checking email, news and FB for interesting reads. Not much came along, a news clip about the lying US President, but what else is new these days.
It’s Good Friday. I went down to have a great coffee at Hendrix Ibsen, where I’m one of the proprietors and the (small) brain behind the concept. We open at 10 today, but alas the barista was still in bed when I called her at 5 after, so I needed to go elsewhere to get the day properly started and my zombeism cured.
So I checked my closest neighbor and favorite spot Tim Wendelboe, but they are closed the next few days for a well deserved Easter break. I checked another favorite Supreme Roastworks on FB and didn’t immediately see anything about Easter opening hours and decided to try my luck there. No note on the door about opening hours, just a closed door. They also deserve a break, so I hold no grudge. The only doable option then is old timers Kaffebrenneriet, so I decided to try their espresso. It’s been a long while, and I thought to myself, it’s nice to try something different than the very light Nordic roast we serve at Hendrix Ibsen. So I order myself a double espresso. Kaffebrenneriet is classic, also in the style of espresso. Dark roasted compared to Tim, Java and Supreme, but still much less dark than the «proper» dark roast. Still, it has this ashy after flavor, though not unpleasant, more like ashy tobacco. Now I don’t smoke, so this is not what I prefer in my espresso, but I drink it, no complaints from my part, just stating the facts as I taste them. Some nuts and dark chocolate as well, but the ashy tobacco with notes of licorice is dominant. In my world of coffee, I don’t think this is a very good espresso, but I understand that a lot of people do.
The place is slowly filling up, and the atmosphere is good, people are working, reading, talking, living their lives in this semi-public meeting space. Maybe it’s not so much about the flavor as the experience, as long as the products are good enough for most, and the location is stellar, with a brand now everybody knows.
There is change in the air, we live in a Gutenberg Moment many say. But the change is slower than most think. The first email was sent in 1971. When did you send your first email? It is a very intriguing thought, that someone on the other side of the planet could be reading these words. Someone in Japan, sitting in a well known chain of coffee shops, reading these words written in Oslo, Norway, on Good Friday 2017. Or I could just start a group chat on one of the many available platforms, and discuss a subject related to opening up coffee shops with industry friends sitting in cities like Glasgow, Antwerp, Berlin, Tokyo, New York and Oslo. Or any other topic, receiving instant answers to my inquiries. It’s deeply fascinating how the world works now, compared to just a few years ago. And even further, I remember very well how lost I sometimes felt when I lived in Minnesota in 96-97. I was 17 then, and I really missed my friends back home. I got two letters from them during that year, and a few phone calls. I really had not much of a clue what they were up to. Now I know much more about what my friends are up to, thanks to Facebook, sms and emails. I don’t see them all that much, since they have families and I open up coffee shops all the time. But I know a little about what they are up to, at least what they chose to share on social media. I definitely know where they go on holiday, if they are buying/selling apartments, and in general other fun stuff they are doing. I like to get these updates, I think it’s nice. We all have our issues and problems, I think we all know that. No need to make all of them public knowledge.
8 years ago I moved to Berlin, after a 6 months stop in Brussels. Two years ago I moved back to Oslo to open up a coffee shop. Then came the 2nd, and the third. The third is a restaurant, but still a coffee shop during the day. I thought Oslo needed a space like Hendrix Ibsen, just like I thought Berlin needed a place like Oslo kaffebar, which I opened up almost 5 years ago, together with a former customer now turned partner. Then eventually came a pop up at the Nordic Embassies (now made permanent), then a project with fellow Norwegians called KASCHK (of which I’m no longer a part of), then as we «speak» the coffee shop/bar/event and co-working space called R/D (razzledazzle) in Berlin together with the great folks from Factory/Silicon Allee. And now, we’re working on a R/D project in the lovely city of Glasgow, and soon I’m about to become a «Glaswegian» at least for some time. I wonder how Glasgow will respond to our Norwegian brown cheese. And Norwegian potato balls, not too far from the local Haggis.
And then there is the «why». Why all of this, all of these shops, these projects (it’s been 8 in 7 years, 9 with Glasgow). It’s really hard work, long hours, sometimes very stressful. It’s been 7 years without a proper summer vacation (or any longer vacation). Why then?
I really believe our places contribute in a positive way to the local community. We create spaces where (almost) anything goes, where all are equal, and where we offer local artists and folks the opportunity to do cool things. That is part of our concept. To facilitate for activities, and see what comes out of it. We do opera shows, flamenco performances, concerts, book and album launches, art exhibitions, spoken word and poetry events, and many more both strange and not so strange stuff. And then we offer very good coffee in what we think are cool spaces with great acoustics and sound. I am one of those HIFI freaks, and I need a room to sound very good, if not great. We do acoustic measures to make sure your ears don’t hurt. We spend decent money on very good sound systems, so we can play great music at a low volume, so our guests can talk but still hear the music without the noise level becoming too high. In my opinion, it’s all about creating good vibrations. And of course the coffee has to be great and the staff very friendly.
So why Glasgow? Well, why not? I’ve been asked to lead a very interesting project, where we are to open up R/D concepts in different cities. There is a very clear plan behind it, but I’ll leave that for later. It has to do with student housing and creating spaces and infrastructure for start ups. I’ve always been triggered by places where I think there should be a great coffee shop which also functions as a social meeting point and creative hub. Like inside the Nordic Embassies in Berlin. That shop is open for everyone, 7 days a week. Now how cool is that?
Like R/D in Chausseestrasse 19 in Berlin Mitte, which also functions as the reception area for the Silicon Allee project, meeting point and event space as well. Coffee is connecting people and ideas, but that is of course nothing new (ref. traditional coffee houses). What is maybe newer is more the idea of the coffee shop as strategically important for real estate development projects. If there is no good coffee shop close to an office space they are perhaps less attractive. At least for the modern office worker who is used to coffee breaks, who needs these breaks to fuel the mind, to create some space in between spaces. Going for a coffee break with colleagues also functions as a meeting where work related issues are being discussed, and possibly by moving out of the office and filling the body with caffeine, also new angles to old problems are found. Does the coffee shop break increase work force productivity and creativity?
I wanted to start off this blog with the sense of change, this feeling of change in the air. Things are both changing and evolving for me personally. I’m getting older, and hopefully a little bit wiser due to my experiences. At the same time I feel the need to change a few things in how I work, in how my shops are managed and run. I think changes and evolution in any business are very important, both on the product side and operational, otherwise we risk to stop moving and slowly degrade, maybe even without noticing it, because it happens very slowly.
I have decided to embrace the changes in both my immediate surroundings and the world itself. As I’ve managed to embrace the «chaos» of the last 7 years. So what if we spend much time online? Getting information has never been easier, and with a little effort sorting the fake news out is not too hard. I remember before Internet, how much time I spent trying to learn lyrics of songs. I’m not sure that time spent was any better than browsing the feed on FB, I’ve found some very educational stuff there. And even though it’s pretty nice to remember the feeling of saving up money to buy records (actual vinyl records, yes, I’m that «old») and the feeling of joy those records gave, I think it’s pretty magical to have an insane amount of music available for streaming through Spotify and Tidal (I prefer Tidal because of the sound quality). I still have a respectable collection of vinyl, many original pressings with amazing sound, but Tidal and vinyl can both exist in my HIFI world. 2017 is both analog and digital, like two conflicting thoughts existing simultaneously, an important feature in this complicated world.
Coffee though, is still for me very much analog. Although AI and digitization will potentially change the coffee industry as well, and probably already is, but we’re just not noticing it yet.
Embrace the change while drinking a good cup of coffee. Change can be very interesting, let’s make the best out of it. Changing a city by improving the availability of very good coffee. One cup at a time. Changing a city by creating spaces where people can meet and ideas will develop into projects. Change the mind of people, change a city, and maybe even make a small change to the world. But then again, it’s also just coffee.
I started writing this blog because I believe in sharing information and experiences. If only one or hopefully a couple of people out there will get something out of reading this, then I guess mission is accomplished. Also, I do think that all the cool stuff I’m doing these days is worthy of sharing. And who knows, maybe something interesting will come out of it some day.
Have a Good Friday!