1 October 2014

Carry on, Jo: Jo opens a coffee shop

Operating cost.  Operating deficit.  Overdue interest.  Overdraft.  Overruns.  Jo couldn't understand a thing Enna, his attractive, young niece cum bookkeeper, had just said.  Neither does he understand why she so steadfastly opines that he'd be better off calling it a day.

"Why on earth should I close my coffee shop when all my friends say it's the best in town?".  Pffft!  What the hell do accountants know about running a business?

Unfazed (and despite secretly harbouring a perverse infatuation for his brother's second daughter since she attained puberty), Jo nonchalantly dismisses young Enna's suggestion, just as his besties Dino and Wang, their wives and seven children file in - as usual, sharp at a quarter to three every day bar Tuesdays and Fridays.

"Come sit with me, my friends.  Coffee's on me.  Here, have some curry buns; my treat".  Must look good.

Enna rolls her eyes in disbelief.  His business can't take anymore of this.  Exasperated, she gets up, hesitantly bows to kiss Jo's hand and excuses herself - graceful as always but otherwise angered by her uncle's dogged stubbornness.  Can't he see they're only taking advantage of his foolishness?  I give up.

It all started seven months ago, shortly after Jo lost his job at the company.  In a last-ditch attempt to turn around his fortunes, he gambled his last paycheck on a lottery ticket.  His blind boldness paid off and he won the draw.  With what he maintains to this day to be his "hard-earned" money, Jo decided to open a coffee shop and, in so doing, finally be his own boss.  Freedom.  He didn't feel the need to over-think the matter; after all, coffee shops were prospering everywhere.  I'll just pop in occasionally while my workers run the place.  And when I've made enough money, I'll ask for Enna's hand in marriage.

But although Jo's winnings would have lent extravagant capital for the venture, he very quickly splashed it all on a new continental ride, gold jewellery for his two wives - that should stop them fighting for awhile - and several romantic escapades with the underaged lass he's been secretly keeping.  Not having enough left to start his coffee shop was the least of his worries; the government offers preferential loan schemes for people like him - which, needless to say, he duly grabbed.  It's a privilege for my kind.  Jo felt proud and, with that, he opened Rose Cafe - named after his 14 year-old secret playmate.  Lookin' good, Jo!
Fast forward seven months, however, Jo finds things aren't quite going according to plan.  Rose Cafe is deep in the red, with repayments on his start-up loan now five months behind and a repo notice recently issued on his flashy car.

For a long time, the till and stock-in-trade never balanced, and Rose Cafe has since become infamously synonymous with poor service; hiring a dozen culturally-lazy, parasitic relatives saw to that.  One by one, they'd all left in a carefully-conspired exodus, leaving Jo with an unworkable staff count of one, a mountain of debt due to suppliers and a complete tie-down at the shop.

Where have all the money gone?  Where's the freedom I'm supposed to be enjoying as Boss?  Simple-minded, under-educated and naturally lacking in business acumen, Jo is at a loss.  For the first time since becoming Boss, he's feeling the heat - his pride dented, but not so his determination to continue looking good at all cost.   My friends, Rose - more so Enna - mustn't know I'm broke.

Then, unaware that he'd rudely obtruded into his host's now-faraway thoughts, Wang startles Jo by asking 
for another coffee, this time offering to pay for the beverage.  "Nope, I won't have it; you're all my guests", insists Jo, who orders another round of coffee and a generous serving of sausage rolls for everybody.  Must look good.

As soon as the coffee is served, however, a short, rather displeased-looking man storms in.  Almost immediately, Jo's face flushes deep scarlet, accentuating the acuteness of his chronic acne problem.  Oh no, not now!  His heart misses several beats; he starts to feel nauseous.  It's Mr Ron, his landlord.

"You have the money, Jo?!", Mr Ron thunders, staunchly bent on not giving Jo any "face" in front of his customers.  Some of the kids begin to cry.  Jo quickly pulls his landlord to a corner out of earshot and says something audible only to the latter - palms pressed together, as if pleading.

"Five months, Jo.... five!  No last chance!  Last Friday last chance!  Pay now!".  Jo utters something, obviously distressed.

"Not my problem!  Everything out today!  Tomorrow I come take the keys, understand?!".  With that, Mr Ron storms out of his property as abruptly as he'd made his fiery entrance a few moments earlier - his face, as the Chinese say, black as charcoal.  Jo feels his knees buckle; he'd just been evicted by his landlord for failing to pay the last five months' rent.

To be honest, he'd seen this day coming but just hadn't been able to raise enough money to pay his landlord despite having pawned some of the jewellery he'd gifted his wives what seems now like an eternity ago.  His priority, money-wise, has always been Rose; she makes him happy.  What do I tell my friends?  Almost instantly, an idea comes to him and he dawdles back to them - face still flush from embarrassment.  Get a grip, Jo.... must look good.

"My l-l-l-landlord is terminating my lease without notice.  S-s-s-someone offered him higher rental for the shop.  For sure he'll be he-he-he-hearing from my lawyer this afternoon", Jo stammers, clearly shaken by Mr Ron's ferocity.  Obligingly, Dino and Wang acknowledge his statement; they know what really happened.  Feeling awkward by now, they wish their host well and duly take their leave, but not before offering to pay for the coffee and food.  Although Jo could do with the extra cash, he declines the gesture.  Must look good.

After his friends have gone, Jo pays his sole, overworked worker in kind by letting her have whatever she wants in the premises; he hasn't the money to compensate her otherwise.  What do I tell the family?  What do I tell Rose and Enna?

Confident he'll come up with a plausible story, Jo locks up after wishing his now ex-worker well and slowly walks towards the open car park.  I'll think of something on the way home.  But there's a problem.  As he approaches his car, Jo notices one of the wheels had been clamped.  The repo man.  He lets out a sigh in disgust, looks skywards and, in an act of clueless defiance, curses the heavens.  What have I done to deserve this?!  I was a rich man once.  Jo hasn't the slightest idea; he still doesn't get it.  I'll just tell everybody the car's being reupholstered and that the shop will undergo renovation upgrades from tomorrow; that should buy me some time.  Rose - more so Enna - mustn't know.  Must look good.

Disclaimer: This short story seeks to highlight some of the potential pitfalls in the planning and operating of a coffee shop.  No reference is made to nor intended towards any person or persons - either individually or collectively as a group or community.  Names, characters, places and incidents are either of my imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual locales, establishments or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

The images contained herein do not belong to me and I do not take any form of credit for them.  They are for reference purposes only.  If you feel that any of these photos are your right, please let me know and I will take them down immediately.

1 comment:

  1. Very good Vincent. You capture the essence of image over substance extremely well. this is one reason many small business fail after a relatively short period of time. Never live beyond you means falls on many a deaf ear.