If you happen to be in the area, it is quite hard to miss Sip Café, an all-glass café located in one of Boston’s beautiful downtown parks. I’m here to chat with the owner Jared Mancini about this awesome place.
V. Hi Jared! How did you get into coffee industry?
M. This is going back to 10 years. I had no prior exposure to coffee whatsoever. The internet company I was working for went out of business, and I needed a job. So, I got an interview at Torrefazione Italia, and that’s what really started the love affair. I fell in love with what they were doing and with the whole presentation; every once in a while, we even used to wear suits to work back then. The drip was nothing too phenomenal, it was primarily blends. What I really learned at Torrefazione was the whole café experience, making people happy and presenting a product. There are many business owners in the industry who have a super pure style, but I want to do things with the highest possible quality, while making people happy. For example, if somebody comes in and orders a Starbucks drink – caramel macchiato, we won’t have that, but we won’t have attitude about it. So we would say: “You know what? We don’t have a caramel macchiato, but what I can do sir, is to make you a vanilla latte, and I really think it would be better than what you are used to, or at least something different, and you can try that.”
V. Your café is absolutely stunning inside and out. Who built it?
M. I wish I could take more credit for it (laughs). The quick story is this is a square where the café is now, which was a big, ugly, concrete parking garage around 20 years ago. Then this group came together, tore the garage down, and made this beautiful park, including this glass structure where we are at now. Before we found out about this place and moved in, there was a café located here called Z Square, so I cannot take credit for the glass structure and some things inside. But I can take credit for the aesthetics. We completely got rid of this gray, very sterile, dull and cold feeling of the previous café. They only lasted 6 months. We brought in a lot of color, wooden furniture, and our espresso machinery. This café represents our vision now.
V. What attracts customers to your business?
M. We have a regular crowd of people and they come in just for the coffee. And once in a while one of these people happens to have a lunch meeting here or something, and they say “Wow, I didn’t realize you get a great lunch”. So there is a split between this whole group of people that come in just for coffee in the morning, and those that come in just for lunch; but there are also those that come in for both now. Why people like us? I think it is the product, but I also think it is a lack of attitude. There are so many times I go into place and think “God man, is it an attitude extra today? Are you charging extra for your attitude?” You know what I mean. I think most people have experienced that. Here it is different. I am always working with my staff trying to make them passionate about the product, but what is more important for me is for them to be more welcoming and accepting and trying to make customers happy.
V. What tips can you give to those in the coffee industry that start today?
M. Don’t be naïve and realize it is going to take time. I definitely thought that we would just start making money right away. It took me a few years to even pay myself. Luckily my wife had a good job. You have to have a passion for what you are doing because you will most likely have to work without pay for a while. It takes time – business costs are high in big cities. Be patient, and plan for the fact that you won’t be bringing that much right away. Another thing is that you have to encourage your staff and pay attention to what they are doing. Make people feel appreciated and give them feedback. Try to build a team atmosphere from the start, so that everyone can watch each other’s back when needed.
V. It seems that the current economy took its toll on many business owners around the country. What about you?
M. Yup, we actually did start in the middle of this whole turmoil. It will be four years in April since we are in business. However, I’ve always thought, “Hey, we are not selling sports cars – it is coffee and sandwiches – and we aren’t even super fancy”. In fact I think we might have even benefited from people shying away from more luxury establishments. We are more expensive than Dunkin Donuts, but I hope this is a better experience.