23 August 2018

Carry on, Jo: Jo opens a coffee shop

Owner's equity.  Operating deficit.  Operating cost. Overdue interest.  Overdraft.  Overstates.  Overheads.  Overruns.

Jo couldn't understand a thing Enna, his young, attractive niece cum bookkeeper, had just said. Neither can he fathom why she so steadfastly opines 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?

Despite secretly harbouring a perverse infatuation for his brother's eldest daughter since she attained puberty, Jo nonchalantly dismisses young Enna's advice, just as his buddies Wang and Dino, their wives and eight children file in - as usual, sharp at 3:00 p.m. every day bar Tuesdays and Fridays.

"Come sit with me, my friends.  Coffee's on me.  Here, have some curry puffs.  My treat", Jo greets them aloud.  Must look good.

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

It all started a year ago, shortly after Jo lost his job at the company.  In a last-ditch attempt to turn his fortunes around, he boldly gambled his last paycheck on the lottery draw which he went on to win. With what he maintains to this day to be his "hard-earned" money, Jo then decided to open a coffee shop and, in so doing, finally be his own boss.  At last, financial freedom.

He didn't feel the need to over-think the matter; after all, coffee shops were prospering all around town.  I'll just pop in occasionally and let my workers run the place.  And when I've made enough money, I'll ask my brother for Enna's hand in marriage.

Although Jo's winnings would have lent extravagant capital for the venture, he very quickly splashed it all on an expensive new car, gold jewellery for his two wives - that should stop them fighting for awhile - and several luxury romantic escapades with the 14 year-old girl he's been secretly keeping.

Not having enough funds left to start his coffee shop didn't worry Jo.  After all, the government offers preferential loans for his kind.  It's a birthright.  With pride, Jo duly exercised this privilege and opened Rose Cafe - named after his under-aged playmate. Lookin' good, Jo!

Seven months on, Jo finds things aren't exactly going according to plan. Rose Cafe is deep in the red, with repayments on his start-up loan now four months behind and a repossession notice issued on his flashy Audi coupe.

For a long time, the till and stock-in-trade could not balance.  To make matters worse, Rose Cafe has since become infamously synonymous with poor service; hiring a dozen culturally-lazy, parasitic relatives made sure of that.  One by one, they'd all left in a carefully-conspired exodus, leaving Jo with only a single employee, a mountain of debt and a total tie-down at the shop.  In short, his dreams have hit rock-bottom.

Where has all the money gone?  Where's the freedom I'm supposed to be enjoying as Boss?  Sorrily simple-minded, under-educated and naturally lacking any 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 costs.   My wives, my friends, Rose - more so Enna - mustn't know I'm broke.

Unaware he'd rudely obtruded into his host's now-faraway thoughts, Wang abruptly startles Jo when he asks for another coffee - this time offering to pay for the beverage.  "No, I'm not having it.  You're all my guests", insists Jo as he orders another round of coffee and curry puffs for everybody.  Must look good.

At that moment, however, a short, obviously displeased-looking man storms in.  Immediately, Jo's face flushes deep scarlet, accentuating the acuteness of his chronic acne problem.  No, not now!  His heart misses several beats.  It's Mr Ron, his landlord.

"You pay today?!", Mr Ron bellows - hell-bent on not giving Jo any "face" in front of his customers this time.  Some of the kids begin to cry.  Jo hurriedly pulls his landlord to a corner and says something audible only to the latter - palms pressed together, as if pleading.

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

"I don't care!  Move everything out today!"

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 suddenly feels nauseous.  His knees buckle; he'd just been evicted for failing to pay the last five months' rent.  In fairness, he'd seen this day coming but just hadn't been able to raise enough money to pay Mr Ron.  Money-wise, his generosity has always been towards Rose; she makes him happy.

What do I tell my friends?  Almost instantly, an idea comes to Jo and he dawdles back to them - face still flush from embarrassment.  Get a grip, Jo.  Must look good.

"My l-l-l-landlord just terminated my lease without notice because someone offered h-h-h-him higher rental for the shop.  For sure he'll be he-he-he-hearing from my lawyer", Jo stammers, clearly shaken by Mr Ron's aggression.  Obligingly, Wang and Dino acknowledge; they know what really happened.

Feeling awkward from the episode, 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 well with the extra cash, he declines.  Must look good.

After his friends have left, Jo realises Rose Cafe's time was up and decides to pay off his sole, overworked worker - in kind. 
"Take whatever
 you want."

What do I tell the family?  What do I tell Rose?  Or Enna?

For the final time, Jo locks up shop, thanks his now ex-worker and slowly walks towards the car park.  I'll think of something on the way home.

As he approaches his car, Jo quickly notices one of its wheels had been clamped.  The repo man.

He lifts his head skywards, lets out a drawn-out sigh and, in an act of clueless defiance, curses the heavens.  "What have I done to deserve this?!  I was a rich man once!"

He still doesn't get it - not even remotely so.

I'll just tell everyone the car's being reupholstered and that the coffee shop will undergo upgrades from tomorrow; that should buy me some time.  No one must know what happened.  Not my wives, not Rose and definitely not Enna.  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.