I don’t have a grease trap because there’s no space

De Koffieschenkerij is a fresh and brand new coffee place in the Wallen neighborhood, adjacent to the oldest building in Amsterdam: De Oude Kerk. The contrast is surprisingly complementary.

Job and Anne have had to come a long way to be able to run their business here at this historic location. Their perseverance is ultimately rewarded after a long procedure to get an exception for a catering license. Job is a happy entrepreneur today and sees his business grow and flourish steadily.

The barrier to the church

“De Koffieschenkerij opened its doors on the basis of a subordinate catering license with the Oude Kerk Foundation.” Well, opening the doors literally went through the Oude Kerk: they did not have their own entrance, so De Koffieschenkerij was only accessible from that moment through the entrance of the church. “Our customers first had to pay an entrance fee to join us,” he continues. “Because there was no independent catering permit at this location, it had to be applied for. That is how we ended up in a long permit procedure with the City District Center. The Red Light District was under a magnifying glass and a permit stop had been issued in the area. New catering establishments could only be added if old ones disappeared. ” So he had to plead with Anne in the district council for what they wanted and demonstrate their added value.

Our customers first had to pay an entrance fee to join us

De Wallen is world famous and therefore a tourist hotspot. The couple wanted to make a different sound where quality and authenticity are regained in the midst of mass tourism. “We didn’t just want to attract tourists and we didn’t want to sell junk like bad coffee, cake or chips. Moreover, the Foundation also wanted to offer their visitors a different experience. In winter it can be very cold here. Ice cold even! They don’t call it Cold Church for nothing. ”

Visitors should have the opportunity to warm up with a cup of coffee and a seat to quietly read some information about the monument and then continue their visit. “The visiting time was very short because it was so cold. Sometimes it was even colder inside than outside! ” he looks back.

A year without a catering permit

How did they eventually get their permit, I asked him. “We wanted to request an exception, because of the location and the added value that the coffee house can be for the Oude Kerk as a historical monument to visit and as a counterweight to the screaming tourist cafes.” In the spring of 2014, they finally received the green light from the Municipality of Amsterdam to operate independently. The gate from the street to the garden was open to the general public. A milestone, and a liberation for De Koffieschenkerij as an independent business.

Job and Anne had to wait a full year for a catering permit. “I couldn’t tolerate this,” it sounds. “I then complained to the court when my opinion was asked about the licensing procedure.” The entrepreneur sounds almost frustrated when he talks about the procedure. “Most entrepreneurs would have given up long ago. And certainly these kinds of initiatives, we are not a nutella shop. It is an amazing place with so much potential. ”

Job still had his job in that first year, but his wife Anne had already quit her job. “So that was an extra risk. We were open 7 days a week, even though we didn’t have a permit yet. In the winter we only had 10 customers in one day. But we trusted that the tide would turn at some point. “

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A year lasts quite a long time, especially financially. “We’ve lost time and money. We also haven’t received any compensation from the municipality. ” Fortunately, it pays for itself now. It is getting busier and the coffee shop is gradually gaining name recognition. “It is a great place. But we also work hard for that. ” It is evident in this place that most customers are tourists. “Many locals know to find us now, and they are returning. Because here they find quality.”

Many locals know to find us now. And they return, because here they find quality.

Fortunately, 99% of sales now come from street visitors, a handful of those attending church. “We can speak of cross-pollination. From the coffee shop, people are triggered by a glass door that offers a view of the inside of the church. They don’t even know they’re here in a church at first. So it happens that visitors to the Church end up in the coffee shop. You will receive a 10% discount at De Koffieschenkerij on presentation of your ticket.

I was also curious how they found this place. “During my previous job, I worked with the current Church director. This space was empty and nothing happened to it. The garden was not used at all and she was aware of my plans to start a coffee shop. ” To start a business here is almost impossible. But to start at decent prices today is impossible. “We were invited to an interview with the Foundation and we immediately saw the potential and beauty of this location. It is incredibly charming and exudes an oasis of calm between all the crowds around it.”

Sustainable entrepreneur

Sustainability is extremely important to Job. He also applies this in entrepreneurial life. “I really want to do business sustainably. But consider waste separation, which is almost impossible. The containers are often full, and they are not emptied in time. This is partly due to a lack of space, which means we cannot place large containers. ”

Insulating the building is no easy task. “We keep it warm here because there are radiators. But nothing else can be changed about the building. ”

It is expensive to buy everything, but we still make money and help other people earn their living.

How does sustainability translate on the menu, I asked him: “I buy my products from local suppliers. Also the pastries and soups.” He explains. “But I am an entrepreneur enough to realize that if I bake all my cakes myself, I would have more money left over. We simply have no place to put a full-fledged kitchen. Of course it is a trade-off that I have to make if we were to bake all those cakes ourselves: I would have to rent a space and then there is a whole logistics story involved. It is expensive to buy everything, but we still earn money and help other people make their living. But if I had a second coffee shop, I would bake my own cakes or hire someone to do it in house. I have the know-how to do everything myself and to pass on my knowledge to the staff. ”

Sustainability is also about the use and reuse of raw materials. For example, Job wants GRO Holland to collect the coffee grounds. Job explains: “This company currently works mainly with large players such as La Place. There they collect large quantities to grow oyster mushrooms on it. Working with small players like us is currently very difficult logistically for them. But when you see how much coffee grounds are thrown away, it is a pity. Especially when you know that we sell more than 1000 kg of coffee per year. ” He has thought of doing it himself. “But there is so much involved, it is an entire organization. ”

“Speaking of coffee grounds, did you know that coffee shops also release a lot of fat into the water?” I asked him. “I don’t have a grease trap because of a lack of space,” he repeats. “I am willing to invest in a grease trap, but I just don’t know where to put it. If you have a solution, I definitely want to consider this ”. Yes, there are mobile and compact separators that fit under the sink. You can read more about this later.

I'm willing to invest in a grease trap, but I just don't know where to put it.

Being organic and local is hot, and Job is very aware of that. He has been doing both for quite some time. Then why is this so important to him? “We respond to customer demand. We are definitely seeing an increasing demand for vegan and gluten-free. We always have two vegan products on the menu. Matcha latte is also in demand these days. This is our work, our craft, so you have to go along with that.”

Finally I wondered what makes him happy at the end of the day. “If everyone, both staff and customers, are satisfied, my day is a success. Customers who are happy that they have been here or receive compliments that we are in a beautiful and unique place. ”, he sounds satisfied. “Look, I’ve been doing the same thing for five years now, we sometimes do something new, but the majority of my work consists of washing dishes and making coffee. But happy customers still give us great satisfaction. And of course if the cash register remains filled, so that we can pay for everything, ”he laughs.

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