Defining Business

I don’t drink much. Actually, leave it up to me, and I won’t drink at all. Ask my friends from college, and they’ll confirm that while they would drink beer after beer at the frat parties Freshman year, I would slyly nurse one for the entire evening. It’s not that I’m morally opposed to alcohol. It’s just that my body rejects it as if it were a poison. And try as I might (and my friends certainly did), raising my tolerance level is simply a no-go.

Therefore, some might see it as ironic that I’m now here in Spain running a bar, but I see things quite differently, for I see AlteArte as being much more than just a bar. From the time when the original owner founded it and created the name and the concept, it has been more than a bar. The sign out front reads “art and internet lounge”. The original owner had three computers upstairs. We took out two of them but implemented free WiFi. The previous owner, Pepe, and the original owner, Benjamin, featured art from the local students. We are continuing that tradition and currently have a series of photographs up from one of the students studying at the local art university as well as a painting from an award-winning artist who is also attending the art school.

We are also trying to attract more of a coffee-drinking crowd and therefore open at 4:00 pm as opposed to Pepe who opened it later, sometimes as late as 10 pm. And to encourage people to come earlier, we have added special activities like movie nights on Mondays. With our large screen TV, Bose speakers, and fresh made popcorn, we turn AlteArte into a mini movie theater. We also have English conversation on Tuesdays and Spanish conversation on Fridays, and we have plans for more.

Sure, we sell alcohol, but we also sell more than that. I searched high and low to find syrups for espresso drinks and nice teas but couldn’t find any place in Spain that sold either. When I expanded my search to the U.S., I found plenty but then ran into a roadblock when many wouldn’t ship to Europe or they would but with formidable shipping costs. And, then, just when I was beginning to think that the search was futile, David came to the rescue and found a company just outside of Barcelona that sold both.

And, surprisingly, the teas have become great sellers. Everyone told us that the Spaniards aren’t big tea drinkers but we have had groups come in just for tea and each time someone orders one, it serves as confirmation that we were right in scouring Spain for something different.

And we have soy milk which is easily found in markets but unheard of in cafes. The fact that we had soy milk was enough to impress Paul – an American who has been living in Berlin for the last two years – so much that he returned twice in the remaining days he had left in Altea. Although Paul was just visiting Altea for a short time, he, like Ernest, left a lasting impression on me. We talked about life’s crossroads and our interesting, albeit brief, interaction made me feel grateful that I am where I am to be able to meet people like Paul.

And even though we don’t have a kitchen, David has turned his tiny counter into a tapas factory. He produces everything from that small section of space: montaditos (mini sandwiches) of all kinds, quesadillas, and even hot dogs (with a hot dog machine purchased from Germany). And as time passes, more and more people are ordering food – the owner of a nearby restaurant included who sends one of his waiters to place the order which David then hand delivers when it’s ready.

And people are starting to come with their laptops to use the WiFi, with their books to study and with their friends to talk. And when Kim, a Norwegian who has been living in Altea for more than 20 years, tells me on his own that we’ve created a special ambiance that brings together an eclectic clientele of people who can speak philosophically, I couldn’t be happier, for that’s exactly the type of atmosphere that I want to create.

With some shaping and molding, AlteArte is proving to be more than just a bar… just as we knew that it was and that it could be.

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25 responses to “Defining Business

  1. I will be there soon to stock you up with some more syrups and to try out your specialty teas! Work on creating some special vege tapas in the meantime 🙂

    • You definitely did stock us up on syrups, and I’m glad that you liked the teas… as well as the vege tapas made just for you! 🙂

  2. It was definitely smart to get rid of the computers and go purely WiFi. Computers can become quite a hassle to maintain.

    Compared to the business you tried before, this one seems to really resonate with your passion and creativity. Being your own boss means you can try new ideas and see if they will work or not.

    • This business definitely resonates with us more, and I’m glad that you approved of our decision to focus on WiFi. Interestingly, though, the one computer that we left gets quite a bit of use.

  3. We were trying to make a comment before Coral did, but she was once again too fast for us! Anyway, the business sounds more and more enticing, and we can’t wait to try out its coffees, liquors, and fantastic company! Here we come!!!

    • It was so wonderful to be able to serve you while you were here! I know that my caramel macchiatos don’t quite match up to those at Starbucks but I hope that you liked your barista at AlteArte more!

  4. This is AWESOME!! Tea is a great addition! and you’re the expert coffee maker! 🙂 you guys are doing it all so well. I’m so impressed but of course, not surprised at all. Wish I was there with you! Lots of love and hope you and your family have an amazing time together!

    • We wish that you were here with us too, Niki! I’m glad that you like all of our ideas as that means that we’re doing things very well!

  5. I’m so happy to see that things are going well! The cafe looks great, as does David’s food, of course! It looks like you’re adding a lot to your new community.

    • Thanks, Francine! If you were here, I’d make sure that David made a vegetarian montadito just for you!

  6. It sounds magical…If I close my eyes, I can just imagine myself there, with the fragrant aroma of fresh tea steeping and the hum of conversation brewing in the background…and then I awake, and alas, I am not in Spain…but very much in the US. One of these days, perhaps I can catch both you AND Coral on the same continent, there and we can share a lovely pot of tea and some veggie snacks.

    • How I would love that if you, Coral and I could all be at AlteArte together. It will happen one of these days. I feel it!

  7. I love all of the things you have going on with the bar to make it more than just a bar. Great concepts. I especially like English and Spanish conversation nights. Cute idea with the movies. You guys are so brave and I wish you all the success with this place. I hope one day to get to visit and enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage with you.

  8. That’s so cool how it’s all coming together!

  9. Yikes I am way behind in my post, sorry! Everything sounds wonderful Sara! I am so glad all your great ideas are working out, splendidly I might add! It seems you guys have found your niche! Way to go!!!

  10. Hi. Wow. What a great update! Things seem to be progressing so wonderfully! Great work on finding the syrups but how about the Monin syrup (it is from France)? It is all- natural and delicious. David can also cook with it! Great mixers too. Keep us posted- it is so good to hear about how you are doing!

    • hmmm… we’ll have to try out the Monin. I was more familiar with Torani, but thanks for your very expert advice on the matter! You’re so sweet to take time out of your very busy schedule as an entrepreneur and a new mom to read my blog. Thanks, Beth!

  11. David, the hubby

    ….Coming up, board game night…Chess, Checkers, Pente, Wii, Playstation, and more…

  12. You are really tempting me here. You can use this line if you want: Chess and Jazz Night at AlteArte 🙂 Just don’t mix the Wii with the booze!

  13. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Sara, I will once again say that first of all, I am not surprised that things are working out so well for the two of you… I knew they would! Second, I must reiterate that I am SO PROUD of you!!! I knew you could do it…

    How’s the Spanish coming along? Are the Spanish nights (AND movie nights, AND business in general) helping? Gros bisous…

  14. I love it! If you add Boba you’ll be the most fantastic spot in all of Spain!

  15. I made a comment before, but somehow it wasn’t published. This place looks amazing!! congratulations on your new business. it certainly looks like a cut above. Have a lot of fun with it!!!

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