Since she opened the first location of The Shop in 2001 on Street 240, Griet Lorre has always considered her cafes as places for people to meet each other.
Today, with more than 70 employees and a big garden-style outlet in Tuol Kork with a central baking facility that serves not only her outlets but many others, The Shop has grown into a popular place for Cambodians and foreigners over the last dozen years.
Unlike many other coffee shops, Lorre doesn’t turn on theWi-Fi until after 2:30 pm because she wants to keep it a meeting place.
“In other shops people sit for hours behind their computers. We keep the focus on good food, good drinks and good service, that’s our main target. That’s why we don’t call it a coffee shop,” she said.
The second outlet of The Shop opened in Tuol Kork in 2009. Lorre says the response has been excellent.
“I can say it was successful from day one. We have a garden in the front and the back, and for six months before I opened the retail part, we were already producing in the bakery.”
The Tuol Kork outlet differs from the Street 240 one in that there are more Asian customers, including a good number of both Cambodians and Koreans.
A third outlet of The Shop will open in Colonial Mansion in July or August of this year.
Her other retail outlet, The Chocolate Shop, is under renovation in its original locat-ion on Street 240 and will open at the end of this month with seating for 15 people inside and 15 outside and a new concept for “high tea”.
The Chocolate Shop’s production, meanwhile, has shifted to the new manufacturing centre and retail outlet on Street 63.
“We moved the Chocolate Shop’s production to Street 63 so we could revive the Chocolate Shop building on Street 240 and make better use of its potential,” Lorre said.
The relaxing new concept for The Chocolate Shop includes scones and sandwiches on the menu.
Lorre has her own special approach to things, including glassware at The Shop, tall handmade glasses with colorful rings.
“We designed our own expensive glasses, brought them in from Thailand and they are our signature now and I like the look of them. We have had this type of glass since the start.”
The big difference at The Shop in Tuol Kork from The Shop 240 is the pizza.
“The pizza is freshly made in a stone oven,” Lorre said.
Her favourite is BBQ chicken pizza with goat cheese and black olives, which sells for $8 for a medium, $10 for a large and $13.50 for an extra-large. The large size is 25 centimeters in diameter.
Lorre says The Shop in Tuol Kork is a great place to take the family and the kids.
“You can get great pizza, there’s a kids’ area where they can play soccer, and we’ve just opened a special kids’ kitchen with toys where they can play while mom and dad are relaxing. The kids can run around in a safe environment.”
The Shop in Tuol Kork is open from 6:30am to 9pm, while The Shop on Street 240 is open from 6:30am to 7pm.
“I’m the CEO, and I’m the only foreigner,” Lorre says. She’s proud of training and promoting local employees, giving them responsibility.
“I have great trust in my staff and when they show loyalty, I reward that. A couple of months ago, I said: ‘I’m not going to hire another foreigner. You can do it.’ ”
Foreign consultants are hired for training, however, in order to keep the local staff up to speed on new skills.
Lorre admits she has stubborn characteristics when it comes to style.
“It takes time to develop the style and I cannot design fast. The longer I am in a building, the more it will develop. We may have five locations, but they will all look different.
“The feel is a personal thing, but not like a chain.”
People always ask Lorre why she doesn’t expand The Shops more quickly.
“They all think I grow too slowly. My answer is that I need a strong base with a solid foundation. I've already taken 12 years to do this, and it’s still one step at a time. If I have too many different things to do, I can’t have a good overview.”
As for differentiation in the marketplace, Lorre says there’s an emphasis on fresh food.
“We’re proud that we produce everything ourselves.
We even smoke our own salmon and chicken. We import the oak shavings. If we can avoid using preservatives, all the better.” She finds that when working with Cambodian employees, they really open up when she takes a little extra time to explain.