Fusion isn’t only happening on the plate. Sprouting all over Manila are enterprises with split personalities. From a bike and athletic shop in Mandaluyong serving light meals and single origin coffee to a yoga studio in Bonifacio Global City offering healthy, organic eats to yogis coming out of an intense asana practice, there seems to be an uptrend in hybrid businesses that allow customers to hit two birds with one stone.
Coffee and clean clothes
With its third branch located in the laid-back Barangay Kapitolyo neighborhood, The Washery presents a contemporary spin on the traditional business of keeping clothes clean. The laundromat, which started as a drop-off counter in UP Town Center, offers savory pastas and sandwiches, a selection of caffeinated drinks that includes a heavenly cup of matcha latte, and both drop-off and do-it-yourself laundry services.
Founded by sisters Therinne Aquino-Goyeneche and Camille Aquino, whose mother started Wash N’ Wear, one of the pioneer laundry shops in the country, The Washery is one of the few, if not the first, laundromat-bistros of its kind in Metro Manila. “The concept is not entirely new,” points out Aquino-Goyeneche, who, like her sister, left the corporate world to focus on their new business venture. “We saw that there were a lot of laundromat cafés in Australia, Europe, and Korea, and thought to bring the concept here.”
With vintage industrial interiors done in muted shades of teal, gray, and white, The Washery is one of several new boutique-style businesses cropping up in once-sleepy Kapitolyo. Since the laundromat-bistro opened last July, the sisters are finding that operating two separate businesses under one roof has its advantages. “We ended up serving not one but three markets—the people who come in to do their laundry, the people who come in for the café, and people who enjoy both services,” says Aquino-Goyeneche. “It’s a really functional way to do business. By working with two different concepts, we ended up with more to offer our customers.”
There are some downsides, but the Aquinos are finding these easy to manage. “The trick is to not favor the laundry over the café, and vice versa,” relates Aquino. “Technically, we’ve set up two different businesses—we pay full attention to both internally, but we market it as an entity,” she says, adding that The Washery has become a neighborhood haunt of sorts. “A lot of our customers are from the community, but we also get a lot of Airbnb guests coming in, and Grab/Uber drivers who live in provinces, bringing in a week’s worth of clothing.”
Brewing good design
Since sisters Francesca Gacrama-Herring and Francine Gacrama acquired furniture store and showroom Mozaic Living (now rebranded Artesania) in November 2015, the low-key and proudly Philippine-made furniture and design establishment has undergone a massive evolution.
“The showroom was a shell of what it is now,” relates the younger Gacrama. “We knocked down a lot of walls and we wanted to completely rebrand the whole thing while bringing forward our ethos of helping the Philippine design community.”
Guided by the Filipino value of pakikisama (cooperation), the “design community” is very much alive in the hole-in-the-wall Artesania showroom, which is tucked in a quiet, warehouse-lined area of Mandaluyong. The one element that bands the community together is surprisingly not even design related: the love of a good brew.
A year into taking over the business, the Gacrama sisters, who are self-confessed coffee aficionados, put up Caffeined by Mozaic Living, a specialty coffee shop drawing in as many visitors to the place as the artfully curated selection of furniture and lifestyle pieces designed by Artesania and its community of collaborators.
“It’s a really functional way to do business. By working with two different concepts, we ended up with more to offer our customers.”
Caffeined’s establishment is entirely intentional, reveals Gacrama-Herring, with the aim of making Artesania feel like home. Having lived in Australia for 10 years, Gacrama-Herring had bought properties down under and every time she walked into a home viewing or showroom, the place always smelled of coffee and cookies. “It gets your brain to start thinking, ‘This could be my future home. I can smell it!’ We wanted the same for Artesania. We wanted people to be able to feel like home. They can sit on the furniture and engage in conversation over a cup of Q-grade, Ephemera coffee and a slice of our frozen Brazo de Mercedes,” says Gacrama-Herring.
It’s a strategy that’s proving to be very effective as these days, Artesania is attracting all sorts of guests, including soon-to-wed couples keen on utilizing the space as canvas for their prenuptial portraits. “We don’t even advertise it as such, but people started talking about it and messaging us. Now almost the entire last October, we’ve hosted prenuptial shoots in the venue,” says Gacrama.
One thing the sisters are also mulling over is hosting wine and cheese nights in Caffeined, where wine o’clock is set a minute after 5 p.m. “We’re thinking later down the track we’ll be serving three kinds of white and red, and a cheese platter of your choice of three to five cheeses,” says Gacrama-Herring.
Clearly, Artesania’s evolution is far from over.
Originally published in F&B Report Vol. 14 No. 6