Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tea Dreams

I love the idea of owning a cafe, and there are
several incarnations of tea selling that use different
business models.

The shop that started my fantasies was a "tea shop" -
in store everything was free. The gave away free
samples at a bar next to the entrance: all the teas,
and even little cookies. It was brilliant. A
customer that came in for 15-20 minutes of sampling
inevitably spent 15-50 dollars on tea and accessories.

This seems to be a much better model than a cafe, which
I would guess average $5 per hour per customer. Of course
you need a place with high traffic, which means high
rent, especially in San Diego. Still, roping people in
with a bar and tiny tea cups for free samples is
brilliant because everyone knows that the free samples
are intended for paying customers and almost everyone
complies. At least in the 15 minutes I sat at the tea
shop in San Francisco about six customer left the tea
bar during that time, probably five of which spent
that minimum $15.

Then there's the typical cafe, or in this case a "tea
house." This is definitely the one that pulls in
dreamers and destroys them, and it is tempting. It's
live music, open mics, a place for people to gather.
I can hang my artist friends' art on the walls, it
will be cozy and magical. And will require a huge
investment in both remodeling whatever space I lease,
and very high rents in order to be in an artsy-fartsy
area, with ample foot traffic and/or ample parking.

But after I move from thinking about a "tea shop" to
dreaming about a "tea house," I am terrified of the
initial investment and the high rate of failure for
restaurants, and then I start thinking about a
coffee/tea kiosk in a business park. There are so
many corporate buildings in SD, and many of which I
know are lacking the kiosk on the bottom floor, and
which, if a space could be rented, would be
guaranteed a captive, paying customer bank of the many
many offices. But then I think, after feeling so
secure about the initial investment compared to
potential profit, there's not much satisfaction in
that. And I'm back to square one.

So then I started thinking about soup restaurant...
but it also requires a huge initial investment and is a
food business, which is inevitably risky. And I'm
stunted again.

Then I think, maybe I can get a few kiosks going, and
they can be my income while a tea shop or tea house is
just a fun little project...

Travel vs. Sustainable Living

My question to myself is basically how I want to
change the world, and what is the most realistic. I
was thinking about all my friends and their
values/priorities. I want to find a way to live truly
sustainably, or pretty damn close, but in the city.
So my real problem has only to do with how I can
enable myself to live that way while remaining very
much plugged into a city. I feel like another city
(not SD) would allow me to do that a little easier.
But I don't know if this is realistic.

Also, regarding economics, I am torn here as well
because I want to be financially successful, it's really
important to me, yet I don't want to be part of the
military-industrial-complex. Impossible in the USA, I
know, but I want to be part of a business or even
better start my own business that is really
conscientious, and shop at the co-op and support other
"triple bottom line" businesses. So, again, if I
wanted to be orthodox in my economic values, I should
leave the country or drop out of the economics system,
but I don't want that life, so I have to find a way
around this problem by making my money and spending my
money with businesses that have morals. I am thinking
about getting a green MBA. Maybe not for a few years,
but I think I would really enjoy it and I think it
would help me attain the goals that I hold for myself.

And I hate car-culture. An occasional drive I don't
mind, sometimes even enjoy, but daily driving and
commuting is awful, but driving to the grocery store
and everywhere on a daily basis, I hate. I want a life
where I can walk to the grocery store and walk out to
dinner and walk to run errands, and take public
transportation, and just drive occasionally. So, beyond
getting an electric car (which is muchmuchmuchmuch
more efficient and therefore sustainable), I just
don't want to be driving on a regular basis.

I guess shooting for 90% attainment of morals would be
okay with me. 90% of money interactions with
triple-bottom-lines, 90% sustainable, etc. That's
kind of where I aim for vegetarianism these days
(like, you know, if a soup has chicken broth I'll eat
it, an occasional piece of seafood when no other
options are present, etc). BUT, right now I’m SOOO far
from 90%, and I don't know how to change it. In SD,
it's impossible to really live without driving, so I
drive all the time.

I wonder if my ideas are attainable, and if I am
strong enough to achieve them. It would be easier to
just forget them and get "a job" and live my life like
everyone else, but of course this would kill me and I
don't want it, and I wouldn't be happy, and it's not
realistic to imagine this as a possibility. So, then,
how do I move from thinking about my ideas and values
to LIVING them? I don't know. It seems nearly
impossible sometimes.

And I think another city might change that or make it
easier, but I don't know. And sometimes I just think
I need to get a little more experience and
perspective, but then when will I know when the time
is right? And sometimes I truly believe that I'll
just "know" when the time is right, and I'll move
forward, and until then I should just learn as much as
I can and extend feelers in different directions. But
how ling do I wait for the feeling to come?

And I also know that I've lived a pretty privileged
life, and I truly believe that the world can support
most of the population with a high quality of life, if
we went about it the right way. Urban revival and
community solutions are in the answer, but how does a
non-developer move these into play? Also, can I
really think that I'm living my values when I travel
all the time and fly tons of places? I mean, I think
travel is important and valuable, but can the world
population travel like I do? No. So, then, which
should take precedence? Living sustainably or
traveling? I value both, but they are inherently
contradictory, unless you travel by sailboat or train,
which I do not do.