New Hope residents and first-time entrepreneurs Jennifer Lee and Peter Jung have big goals, to bring a premium coffee experience to Hope residents and visitors.
The couple opened their first joint business venture, Hope Mountain Cafe, on Dec. 22. They come to the cafe business with training, both are certified baristas, and experience working at a cafe owned by her parents in South Korea which served a very similar crowd as they hope their new cafe will — both locals and tourists.
Lee’s experience with entrepreneurialism goes even further back. She has watched and actively participated in a variety of businesses her father has run in Canada and South Korea.
“I’ve been working for my dad throughout my teenage years. He owned a gas station, before that a car wash, a convenience store,” she said. “He’s a great businessman.”
In the country where Lee and Jung got their first experience in the coffee business, java culture is a big industry. Lee pointed out that the South Korean capital Seoul even has the distinction of being the city with the highest number of Starbucks coffee shops in the world, from a 2014 story by Quartz.
The trend is so big, in fact, that Lee said drinking an americano after a meal has been standard fare in the country for around 10 years.It made sense to keep her first business venture with her husband in the coffee world. “I’ve tried different sectors for retail service and I think selling coffee…you’re not just selling a cup of coffee, you’re selling great coffee, a great mood, great service,” she said.
Whereas the metro Vancouver area is satiated with specialty coffee shops, Lee and Jung saw the potential to grow coffee culture in the Fraser Valley. They looked all around the Valley, happening upon the space at the corner of 3 Ave. and Wallace St. which had recently been vacated by 293 Wallace restaurant.
“We wanted to have a core location where people would just come,” Lee said. “The location was the best here. And it will be a great opportunity to introduce really good espresso and coffee to people who live in Hope.”
When the Hope Standard spoke with Lee and Jung, they had just waved goodbye to their one-year-old son Daniel, leaving him in the care of Lee’s parents to test out panini recipes. The recipes must be just so, Lee stressed, and all will be baked in-house.
The modern vibe and presentation is another important part of the business.
“I would like to introduce really good coffee, with a great presentation,” Lee said. And a lot of the business is in the details, for example the New Zealand-designed Acme mugs the coffee will be served in.
“As soon as you touch your lips to the edge of the mug, it’s really smooth when you drink coffee. So it gives a really great experience,” she said.
While the menu is currently coffee, sweets, paninis and gelato, the owners plan to expand to serve beer and wine. With a patio that faces 3 Ave. and Memorial Park, cold beer will most likely be a common request in the summer months.
The entrepreneurs, also new residents of Hope, have been welcomed with open arms, they agree.
“I feel this area is very warm. Nice people. And Hope is very small, that will be a strong point for us,” said Jung, stressing building good relations with people in Hope is important to him.
Lee agrees, visibly moved as she recounted a recent visit from a community member. One day she had a knock on the front door of the cafe, during renovations. It was a woman from the community who told her ‘you’re building such a beautiful cafe and place in the town of Hope,’ and proceeded to hand over a batch of homemade cookies.
Support has also been strong from Korean business owners in Hope, many of whom Lee said she has gotten to know at the church she attends. “They’ve all been really helpful and they kind of convinced us that Hope is a great place to have a business and to believe in them is a great choice, I think.”
“We are very excited and a little bit nervous. Because it’s our first business in Canada, but we will do our best now and that’s the only way we can overcome our nervous feelings,” Jung said.
And once things are up and running, they plan to give back.
“Whether we fail or succeed, I still want to support the community in Hope,” Lee said.
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