In May 2001 we opened the first Whole Bean Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. We wanted to make sure that we reinforced our core values and passion for coffee in building the brand in Japan as we grow (at warp speed!).
This was a joint effort between SSC and SBJ. We went through many brainstorming sessions with Brooke McCurdy and her team along with Mayumi Ando and Hatta-san in concept development. We had the honor of receiving store visit by Dave Olsen and Howard Behar who provided us with inspiration and feedback to ensure the store represented the core of who we are.
Coffee passionate partners were absolutely the key. Joji Ezaki, store manager, nurtured the heart and soul into the operation. The strong engagement with customers was truly exceptional. I recall an enthusiastic loyal customer who went camping in Akita where she brewed coffee with natural spring water, decided to pack it in a bottle to share her experience over a French Press with Joji. She would frequently show up in many of our new store openings, and provided constructive feedback on her observations on our stores and services.
With unrivaled passion to build this concept into something very unique and enduring, the team was able to create a strong foundation for coffee education, incorporating learnings from this sore into the roll out the Coffee Master program. We also developed “paid” Coffee Seminars for loyal customers, as a new way to provide uplifting experience to customers.
We also had the pleasure to roll this concept into a project for developing the Ambassador’s Cup, which became the summit for Coffee Masters nation-wide. Passion towards the core takes us far into an endless journey; this is what I learned from this experience.