Day five: Making a local business

In the afternoon I hurry up for my arranged interview with Jaime. Originally from Mexico, after numerous travels, he settled down in Rome. He works in a Greek bistro that is tightly connected to the character of Pigneto and that has gained its fame through years mostly by a spread word. We have a lot of time to talk because it is siesta time. Jaime, tell me about the opening hours.

“We are open from 1PM to 4PM and then we reopen at 7:30PM and close at 1AM. It used to be set for everybody to closed at a certain hour but now they changed the restrictions and you can stay open 24/7. Basically it was our decision to close at 1AM.”

Who are your typical costumers?

“This bistro opened 8 years ago, I work here the past 6. First 5 years our customers were only students with a limited budget. The owner knew this since the beginning and he wanted to target exactly this group. Focus to quantity of people and keep the prices accessible. During these 5 years Pigneto has become very fashionable. There was an explosion of nightlife and it has brought also drug dealing to this area. Our customers were these youngsters that came to get their stuff and eventually they also ate here. That time the security of residents was very discussed. Just imagine, two people have died right in front of our bistro.[…] 

People were pointing fingers to us, saying that we are also bringing all these junkies here and we are ruining their calm lives. When you are running a business the last thing you want is to have bad relationships with neighbors. We agreed to close at 1AM instead of 3AM and this was a compromise for everyone.[…] 

So the first 5 years were very wild but then things started to change drastically. The entire neighborhood got mobilized to calm down this place. The security was something that united everybody. This is a place of one hundred ideologies but suddenly we got all together to fight for our security. The presence of the police became constant and this has moved the drug dealers out from here. We have lost around 40% of our profit but at the same time we understood that it was necessary and now we don’t have to worry about having junkies fighting outside.[…] 

I also participated at local gatherings and went to manifestations. To say that I am Jaime and I work here and I really care about this place. I go to the morning market almost every day to get the supplies for our bistro. It is a way of making the local economy circulate. I feel like I need to pay the debt to this place. There is a social aspect as well, to show my face and meet the locals. I find this essential to succeed. Even now there are many newly opened places and it doesn’t matter if you’re a barista or you open a restaurant you always have to interact with locals and build the trust. […] 

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Italians are obsessed with food, if they don’t eat they talk about eating, they go to sleep dreaming about food. Italians will not go to eat to a stranger, they have to know something about you in order to become your clients. I think that this is something that many entrepreneurs did not understand and that’s why many of them fail. If they are not able to create relations and become a little bit personal, they close after two years.” 

I am leaving feeling very thankful. Amazing talk and a delicious pita.

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