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Portrait Of A Doomed Small Business

Portrait Of A Doomed Small Business

Since I live in a very small house with two small children and one large husband, I’m always looking for a good place to take my laptop on the road. I figure the $3-4 I spend on coffee isn’t bad rent for several hours of office space at a café. However, the closest one was 45 minutes away until recently. There’s a new one only 30 minutes away. Yay! So this morning, I decided to check it out.

I am always hesitant to try a new place on my own (just weird that way), so I paused looking in the window, but then told myself that if I wanted it to stay open, I’d better throw some business it’s way. And I liked it, I really did. I’m going to enjoy it while I can, which sadly, I predict will not be long. Here’s why:

Portrait Of A Doomed Small Business

Parking:

The only really close parking is on the street and there are many other businesses along the street, too. If this were a pedestrian city, that might not matter, but it really isn’t. If I hadn’t found the perfect spot this morning, I probably wouldn’t have gone at all.

Atmosphere:

I actually found the place kind of funky and charming. There was a collection of great art on the walls, one of those black cat clocks with the moving eyes, a coffee bar with everything from stirrers to sugar marked by one of those little label makers. A bulletin board was covered with flyers for local events. It was eclectic and unique, something I look for in a coffee shop and that I find slick, modern chains are lacking. However, it was just a bit over the line into being cluttered and untidy. Specifically, the bar that would have been the perfect place for me to sit with my computer was so full of stuff that I didn’t know if it was even for customers. Instead, I took one of two tables, which I hated to do because I knew a larger group might need it. The other option, a counter in the front window, was too bright for me to easily see my computer screen.

In fact, there was another option, a back room with quite a bit more seating, but there was nothing to tell me that. I thought it was just a private back room. I think this could end up being a big turn-off to potential customers who will think they can’t come with a group.

It wasn’t air conditioned and it was a hot day. I did not mind this; in fact, it made me feel a little bit like I was in another, less climate controlled country or my own childhood. I don’t like heat, but I like variety. However, I know this would keep some people from going.

Owner:

I don’t want to get too specific here because, hey, I want to go back, but ultimately, the owner’s demeanor is what I think will do this place in (unfortunately). I like him, but he’s a little rough around the edges to say the least. Here’s a list of things he did while I was visiting:

–Was harsh to an employee (and he’d made a similar mistake himself earlier).
–Chased some people down the street who had decided not to stay (and he had other customers to serve).
–Talked about his business strategies quite audibly in the middle of the small restaurant.
–Talked too much about saving money.
–Bragged about himself.
–Was unkind to a customer.

Will he figure out these issues and succeed? Will people like me be so eager for a cafe in town that he succeeds anyway? Or will all these little hangups do him in? I’m eager to find out.

What mistakes do you see small businesses making? What mistakes have you made in your own small business that others can learn from? Do you think my newfound coffee shop will succeed?

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