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A few months ago, I read this great article by Stephen Gordon about how all businesses will become coffee shops in the future. The idea is that, with all the core functions of a business going online now — university classes and most retail, for example — the only real function of most businesses will be for meetings, which can happen more cheaply and deliciously at a coffee shop.
I was brought back to Gordon’s article after visiting the occult store in Melbourne this week. The striking thing about this shop is, it truly wants to be a bookstore. The books themselves are wrapped in plastic, so you can’t thumb through them — Amazon gives you more of a preview than you get here. I don’t think there were any chairs, let along a place to sit and chat over coffee. In fact, between the books on every wall and the jewelry cases in the middle, there would barely be space for two people to pass each other. The goal seems to be to stock as many books as possible, and get customers in and out as quickly as possible, with a minimum of interaction.
And I can’t imagine it’s going very well. Amazon will always have a bigger selection, plus reviews and better prices. Blogs like this one make much of the content free, and most online content is fresher and more cutting edge than print books, anyway. When I told him I’m a blogger and asked about local events, he was outright hostile, saying that everyone is just talking online and not meeting, and that the community is falling apart because of … (wait for it) … blogs.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about coffee shops. Some place with meetups, classes, and books to read while you’re there. Roughly 90% of coffee shops succeed* because it’s a relatively high-markup product, and it’s a lot less overhead than a restaurant. Basically, you let Amazon have the product sales, and you focus on the community. The Occult Bookstore in Chicago is pretty close: They have an event most evenings, and a truly lovely community there, but I don’t think they actually sell coffee. You pay $10 for the event, and bring the coffee from next door, which seems like a huge missed opportunity.
*That 90% statistic was from some article comparing coffee shops to restaurants. It’s probably as well-researched as most things on the internet.
Right now, this is just an idea bouncing around my head. I doubt I’ll do anything with it. But I am curious: Does anyone live in an area with an occult coffee shop, or an occult bookstore that primarily lives on events and coffee sales? I’d love a link to the place.
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