A few questions from a beginner (nothing quite obvious)


New member
I just realized that this post is way longer than I wanted it to be, but i guess its better than posting all the questions individually right?

Hello, first off I just want to thank everyone who has contributed to this forum and everyone who takes the time to read and respond to my questions. This forum has provided me with some invaluble information with which I have based my first opinions of starting a small cafe upon. To put you at ease, this isn''t a standard, \"HELP ME I''M A NEWB I NEED ADVICE\" thread. I found like 20 such threads across the pages of this forum section alone. You guys are extremely helpful. Anyway, a few days ago, a friend mentioned (somewhat jokingly?) that he and I should open a caribou coffee shop in our small town of Yorkville, Illinois, which has roughly 14,000 people. I kind of discarded the thought, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me. I am an avid coffee drinker, I have experience in business, having already started a small business of my own, although it does not pertain to coffee. And really the only competition we would have in this town is Dunkin'' Donuts, Panera Bread, and McDonalds. So now I am researching the whole industry, I have gone through all 14 pages of \"Coffee Industry\" threads on this forum, along with a great deal of other websites. So far, I have a general idea of what I want to do, but I had a few questions and thoughts in mind that I would appreciate an answer/opinion on.

1- Is it a good idea to sell books at your cafe? I probably won''t be doing this initially, but it was a thought that crossed my mind as something we might do as we become better established in the community. I can imagine the coffee stains on the books though.

2- I had the idea to have either a tv with a dvd player for customers or maybe a separate \"theater\" room. But I''m not so sure if i want people parked in my cafe for 2 hours while nursing the same cold coffee. What could make this idea work?

3- I am only 17 and a junior in highschool. WOuld it be realistic to expect that I could manage my school work (which I don''t have much of by the way) with the full time responsibility of opening and managing a cafe? Keeping in mind I will have a classmate to help me, although he is much less knowledgeable at this point. I figured I could get up and open around 6 in the morning, leave the shop to a manager/employee/family member that I have hopefully found trustworthy by this point at, at 9, and return at 2:30 when school gets out. How does that sound?

4- (Thank you for putting up with all these questions) My (primary) target market is people ages from 15-25. Me and my friend are thinking about it, but does anybody have any good ideas for turning our cafe into a nice chill spot? I was thinking about having an xbox to play or something, but that might prove too unwieldy.

5- Being located in the southern suburbs of Chicago, I have been looking at local roasters to supply us with our beans, but can anyone make any recommendations? Or are there any semi-close by cafe/coffee houses that would be willing to give us some pointers or training if we stopped by?
We, of course, could compensate you for your time and effort in training us. At this point, I only have a love for coffee and my community, which will only take one so far though.

6- Is there that big of a taste/freshness difference between freshly roasted beans, and beans from a nearby roaster? (probably a day or 3 shipping) There was another thread kind of like this, but I did not get that much of a definate answer out of it. I would really like to have a wow effect with my customers the first time they try my coffee.

One last short question. I plan on attending CoffeeFest Chicago in two weeks, being that this expo is not public, do they require proof that you are part of the industry to enter? and if so, what would be the easiest way for me to attain said proof being that I am in the preliminary stages of planning my business? and do the educational seminars have size limits and or need pre-registration of which seminars you will be attending?
Should I get there early? Could I rely solely on books, dvds and the training I get though CoffeeFest to run a cafe? Or would a consultant make more sense?

Okay. Thats it. Thank you if you read the whole thing, and if not, I can''t blame you. And thanks again if you take the time to help me fulfill my dream by answering my questions. I''m sure there will be more by the time I open.

Without you guys, I don''t know where I would be.
(At another forum?) :wink:


and sorry if I asked anything obvious/stupid.


New member
Mar 29, 2005
DFW, Texas
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In Response to #1: I think selling books at a cafe is a fine idea - I myself have purchased books from one. However, it may be best to wait until you have a customer base and find out who you're audience is. Another good way to do it would be to sell books you already own, so you're not putting money up fron for buying books you hope to sell. If you know anyone who has a book they'd like sold, you could work a deal with them to where they set up a stand in your shop and you make a certain percentage of their sales for giving them the publicity. This is another way to not have to BUY books before you can sell then.

IRT#2: I don't know that having a TV in a coffee shop would give off the right vibe - it may feel too much like a sports bar at that point, even if you were playing classic movie or something. I have gathered that the general public occupying a coffee shop are pretty content to just sit and talk, or read, or study while drinking their coffee. Plus, like you said, how many people do you know would want to get up to miss part of a movie they were watching to get a drink? And the process of making an espresso based beverage is sort of loud, so unless you wanted to spend a whole lot of money soundproofing the room, it may not be worth it.

IRT#3: I am 22 and working full time in a law firm. I want my own coffee shop as well, and have wanted one as long as I can remember. But as cheesy as this sounds, you may want to "wait until you're older". Get more life experience, get more business experience. Take some business classes at your local college. Go to work in an independent coffee shop, or for a roaster or a distributer. Learn about the coffee industry in every way you can - this forum is definitely a good start, but you can't learn everything just from reading. It's a lot of trial and error, and frankly, while I have a business plan for my shop and the money in line and everything seems to be ready to go, I know that I need more knowledge and education before I start. Plus, you're young - if you start a business like that now, what happens when you want to move? Or when you want to go to college? Or when you meet someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, but that person wants to move? I don't want you to think I'm picking on you, I'm not. I just think that while you're in school, get the most information you can, and wait a few years until you're really ready, to open a shop.

IRT#4: That's not a bad target market, but how much money do people in this age group, in your area, have? I know that the idea of a coffee shop is really fun and nice, but unless you are targeting an older crowd who can stop by on the way to work or can come listen to a good jazz band on the weekends, you may not make enough money to stay open. My experience with the shops I have worked in and frequented is, people under about 30 will come in, buy one maybe two drinks, and sit as long as you let them. And then when the older crowd wants to come in and spend their money, all the seats are taken and they don't want a bunch of college-aged kids being loud and obnoxious. They want somewhere calm, somewhere quiet.

IRT#5: I'm not very familiar with the Chicago area. Your best bet is to go by every coffee shop you can find, every roaster you can find, and every supplier you can find. Talk to all of them, see who you like and who you can get the best deal from. If you need to find shops, try http://www.delocator.net/ - it will help you find all of the independent coffee shops within certain mileage of your zip code.

Okay, I'll leave the last couple questions to someone else. I do want to say again, though, it's not that I don't think you can do it, so please dont' take offense to anything I have said. Just giving an opinion, and I hope it helps!


New member
Sometimes the things that you may not want to hear are the things that are best for you, i appreciate the honesty, thanks for answering my questions. I am a big jazz fan myself, but not many kids my age are, and I don't know any truly local jazz artists aside from the highschool jazz band, which is why I thought that my chosen target market would work best. Maybe I should rethink things.

Anyway, thanks again, you have really helped me.


Comfy Place

New member
Jul 15, 2006
Bloomer, Wisconsin
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First, congratulations on taking the time to really invest in yourself before starting a business (any business!). You'll be much better off and happier down the road by doing so rather than just jumping right in. While I agree with Billagirl to a point about waiting until you are older, sometimes one doesn't need to wait; they'll do just fine by going for it once they have their things in order. While age can be a detriment (most don't always give a younger entreprenuer much of a chance), it doesn't have to be. But certainly, if you can gain experience by working in an independant coffeehouse, by all means do so while you are in school. Perhaps you would be better served by waiting until you are done with high school before starting the business, if only for the fact that you will want to be present at your business all of the time until things get going strong.

I'll try to address your questions as well:

1- I'm not convinced that selling books mixes well with a coffeehouse, but that's just my opinion. If you want to have your point of distinction be that you sell quality books and quality espresso drinks, then by all means do that. But to do it just to earn money, that I'm not in favor of. My wife and I are thinking about opening a used bookstore in our town (once our coffeehouse is a little more stable), and I've had people suggest that we start selling books in our coffeehouse. While I appreciate their suggestions, this is not what we want for the image of our shop. Because of that, we are choosing not to sell books in our shop (unless, perhaps, they are educational books dealing with coffee - that matches up with our goal of helping to educate people in our area about coffee).

2- Here I agree with Billagirl 100%. If you want your coffee shop to be like a sports bar, then your idea is the way to go. However, most places do not do this because it just isn't what most people want from their local coffeehouse. However, why not adjust your idea a little? What about having weekly movie showings at your place on purpose? You could have themes, such as horror month, 1970's movies month, etc.. Make it an event, and then also charge admission for it. Have people get their drinks, etc. before the movie, and let them know that nothing will be served during the film. You could partner with a local technology store to have them supply a large plasma or LCD and a DVD player. Give the store a plug and they might go along with it (probably use one of their floor models, but so what?). Make sure that you offer a movie that is different somehow (Hitchcock, etc.) and that appeals to people.

3- See my point above about your age and about waiting until after high school. While you don't have much homework, running a business, especially your first coffee shop, is very demanding.

4- Again, I agree with Billagirl here as well. You should rethink your target market - probably increase the min/max ages by 10 years, and you'll be in a better target. As far as the Xbox/gaming situation, this could again be special offering for people. Many adults now also play video games, so this would not be out of the question. Why not plan a tournament over a weekend? Call up that technology store again and see if they would be willing to donate a machine or 2. Or, make an entry fee for the tournament to offset the cost of obtaining the machines. There is a lot of leeway here to come with something of interest for your population. Get together with your friend and start brainstorming ideas!

5- Not being in Chicago myself, I can't help you out here. Hopefully a local can step up and offer good advice on this one.

6- As long as you are using beans that have been roasted recently (less than 2 weeks), you'll be good to go.

My wife and I will also be attending Coffee Fest, and we're really looking forward to it. There is a lot of great information in the seminars, and you'll have plenty to read later from all of the vendors available (and samples, don't forget samples!). If you happen to run into us, say "Hi" and maybe we can grab a dinner and discuss things. I'd be happy to help out any futher if you want, just send me an e-mail through this site or from our website. Cheers!


New member

hey comfyplace,

thanks alot for the help, and sorry it took me so long to reply. I appreciate the offer for some advice while at coffeefest, but i was really restricted as far as time went, which was rather unfortunate as i didn't to get to spend as much time as i wanted to on the floor. It was great though, i had a really good time. Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions.