How To Open A Successful Coffee House

Lively activity inside a small restaurant catches the attention of a young couple waiting to cross Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem. They peer inside large glass windows to see patrons having a good time at Society Coffee, a chic espresso and wine bar that 30-year-old Harlem entrepreneur Karl Franz Williams launched last year.

The shop is packed with an eclectic mix of locals, young professionals, and college students. Everyone is chatting, networking, and sipping coffee or wine while eating the signature waffles. For Williams, this scene represents the culmination of his dream after moving to Harlem four years ago.

“I wanted to provide a different dining option for Harlem, other than traditional soul food and Caribbean cuisine,” says Williams, who realized that the local housing being built along Frederick Douglass Boulevard and the avenue’s proximity to Columbia University and Central Park made it an ideal location for Society Coffee.

Williams is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs taking advantage of the nationwide love affair with specialty coffee. He financed his startup with $50,000 in personal savings, $150,000 from a home equity loan, and another $150,000 from a Small Business Administration loan. Coffee industry trends indicate that Williams’ investment will pay off. The Specialty Coffee Association of America’s report, Specialty Coffee Retail in the USA 2004—2005, shows that total market revenues increased to $9.62 billion in 2004, up from $7.53 billion in 1999.

Want to Open a Successful Coffee Shop? Consultant Alex Fisenko offers this advice:
Get enough financing for your venture. Presenting solid five-year financial projections in your business plan is the first step toward getting financing. Startup costs for a drive-through coffee location range from $40,000 to $150,000; for a coffee shop, they range from $60,000 to $350,000.

Find a proper location. Set up your coffee shop where it is highly visible, close to high foot-traffic, and easily accessible by a large number of potential customers.

Spend your investment wisely. You can save thousands of dollars by hiring an experienced consultant. Alex Fisenko & Associates (www.espresso and Bellissimo ( are two consultants that have the expertise to answer all your questions about opening a specialty coffee business.