Location

I had been mediating regularly since my early 40's, and got deeper and deeper into it.   One morning, the chatter in my head subsided while I was meditating and I became very calm when I posed the question to the universe if I should start my own business.  I used to get scared whenever I thought of striking out on my own after having experienced one business failure in my 30’s and now I have a child to protect.  Despite of it all, something, perhaps a small voice in me told me it’s alright to strike again, in fact it is imperative for me to strike.  People after 50, especially women face difficult time finding an employment, even if you find one, the earning power is significantly diminished.

I chose to ignore the discouraging advice by the well intended acquaintances.  As much as I love my brother in law, I got furious with him because he sat me down to talk to me one day after I confided my business plan to my sister while they were visiting from Japan. He brought up that I had failed in business once before so I should not even think about trying it again.  Men!  It was totally uncalled for and came from a place of his own fear.  People who love to initiate things expose themselves to fall but they get up, dust themselves off and try again and again until they succeed.  The owner of CBGB failed twice before he struck success in business. 

I saw the retail space in East Village for rent listed by a real estate agent on the craigslist that was affordable.  So I made an appointment to check out the place.  It was in the middle of a residential block on East 7th street in 2003.  The place used to be a laundromat that had been empty for quite some time because no one with a business acumen would jump on the tiny space like that right in front of a church with two other churches on the same block.  Having church within 500 feet means no way in hell in high water, you could obtain a hard liquor license.   With no experience in the industry I was about to go in, I preferred to start out small.  Just to make sure the viability of the location, I stood in front of the vacant retail space morning till night for about a week counting the foot traffic of my potential customers before I signed the lease.  There were plenty of young people walking by on the residential block made me feel assured so I forged ahead with the business plan while muffling the voices of people who discouraged me against leasing the small retail space.  Even my landlord was dubious about my opening a café.

I hired a contractor to break down the defunct laundromat and turned it into a tiny café.  Incidentally, the location I chose was the largest drug-trafficking place in East Village from the 80’s well into 90’s.  According to old timers, people used to make a long line snaking around the block few times over to buy drugs from behind that old laundromat.  Contrary to the image of drug trafficking street, East 7th street on that block was the safest street in the East Village back then because the gang did not want any trouble to draw law enforcement’s attention, they policed the block themselves.  The woman who has been living there since the early 80’s told me that there were watchman on every corner and lookouts on the rooftops and they used to escort you to your home if you were a woman walking home alone at night.   Then Giuliani got elected as a mayor and cleaned up the entire city shutting down the lucrative “laundromat” in the process.   

Amy Watanabe