Café haven’t we met
Year 2020 became an unforgettable year for everybody.
We reviewed our life and our business managements in a speed that nobody has experienced yet and changed it in a quick manner because of the unknown virus. I, who lives in Sendai, remember deeply of two stores that have closed their doors due to this situation: Ekakiya and Haven’t we met main store. This was an end of one era.
At the end of September, I noticed a tweet from ‘haven’t we met’ stating “we are closing today”. It took me by surprise and I realized that the place and the time, that I doubtlessly thought to disappear, cannot be experienced ever again. I thought of when was the last time that I visited the place; it was possibly in last winter. With yarns to knit and books to read I visited the place and enjoyed the quiet time with a north facing window’s view.
Of course, the store ‘Opus’ is still open and they haven’t changed the taste. But as compared to ‘haven’t we met’, the quality of the time, music, atmosphere and the familiarity of faces are different. I will never again see the view of a plant and old buildings from that north facing window that made me somehow feel deeply at ease.
In the past few years, I started to have a class room in the middle of the town. It is a very small room in a building. It is not much to call it a store, but I know by now that how much effort and work it requires to build a business. Thus I can imagine a part of what it is to build a store based on one concept: the efforts, the works and love. The work and the time put into building ‘haven’t we met’ were unimaginable. The store had also purchased beautiful order-made furniture from a Miyagi based craftsman.
It was a time and space that was always available; It was a place where we replenished ourselves like an overflowing water fountain; a space that was carefully prepared by others; and time that you spend on someone’s watch. Even the times that I did not go there, my life in Sendai was supported by this place deeply.
Did I go there very often – like every week? No, I did not; probably three to four times per a year. This is what bothers me. And although I did not go so often, the café being there was a great difference to me.
From its opening, about three decades ago, “haven’t we met” has towed Sendai’s café culture. They grew many younger café business people giving others confidence to open more cafes in Sendai; if they can do it this way, we might be able to. They proved that high quality space and time services in Sendai are possible. The possibilities that they showed by running their business from that point of view are uncountable.
We, the small business owners, run our business by the fees that we receive from the customers, basically not receiving the public funds except for special occasions. That is how we feel healthy to run a business, at least for me. What you need exists where you need it, supported by each other; this is how the owner of “haven’t we met” has created the culture. This simple equation brings us comfort to run our businesses.
It is very difficult to run a business by just policies and concepts. It is even harder to evaluate and quantify what “haven’t we met” has created. They have chosen a different path than that. Therefore we should use our money and time wisely.
Don’t we have any other ways to support those who run hearted businesses? I could at least let him know that I appreciated the place; like drinking water in the dessert and thought of it as very precious. This is why I am writing this essay.
This is Sendai, therefore the situation has not gotten any worse “yet”. In smaller towns other than Sendai, there are many who are facing decisions whether to close the stores that make huge differences in their town by not being there.
We need game centers, shopping malls, super markets and department stores. But for those small numbers of us need what the ‘haven’t we met’ main store created: what can we do?
We are going to create our town from now, by going to the small shops that you love, buying items, talking to them, conveying thank you, and hoping for someday that someone like the owner of the “haven’t we met” shows up in this town and plans to open a store as he did. We try to make this town interesting. That cannot be done by public funding. We are standing on the edge of the break.
What I can do is little, but I can write an article like this. From now I will introduce shops/stores that I feel are important to have in Sendai in every three months. Possibly by interviewing them and making it bilingual. I am interested in meeting people by doing so and would like to watch Sendai, the town that I love, grow. I will use 10% of my work time next year for this. This is how I pay my courtesy to the “haven’t we met” main store being there.
If you read this article and felt something, please leave a comment. It is great to share my quiet nostalgic feeling toward this incident with someone, and is necessary for me/us to have support on continuing this journey. And someday the owner of the “haven’t we met” could read this.
Also I am looking for those supports from any of you, starting 2021. Deadline is January 23.
-Taking photos on our interviews in every three month.
-Proofreading in English.
For proofreading you have two weeks before the deadline. All above are based on volunteer work, no fee included, but I hope that we can create something new for ourselves from this relationship. Send me an email if interested.
On a snowy rain day of December 2020.