All things great and small: Poland’s tiniest café is showing what big dreams are made of
In Poland’s smallest coffee stop, the expression three’s a crowd takes on a quite literal meaning; standing elbow-to-elbow with other customers, a coffee machine whistling in your ear, the sensation of being inside a Lilliputian micro-world is as intoxicating as the rich aromas that waft around.
Measuring in at just six square metres, the tight dimensions of Warsaw’s Dobro&Dobro café have made it a bona fide cult hit.
Subject to anything between 250 and 300 press articles since officially opening in February 2016 (“I’ve lost count how many people have written about us,” confesses co-owner Oleg Yarovyi), and now officially certified as the tiniest coffee stop in the nation, its pulling power is such that past guests have numbered the presidents of both Ukraine and Georgia.
Formerly functioning as a florist, gambling den and ice cream store, its reputation has carried globally, with some backpackers even admitting to fitting Warsaw into their inter-rail schedule solely to be able to tick off this coffee curiosity and send a postcard from its confines.
“The attention we’ve received is both surreal and exciting,” says Yarovyi. “At a guess, journalists from about eleven different countries have visited us, which is a reaction we never remotely expected.”
Though its size might strike some outsiders as a carefully planned gimmick, this was never the intention says Yarovyi. “Put simply,” he states, “it was all we could afford at the time.”
Hailing from Ukraine, Yarovyi and his wife, Inna, found themselves moving westwards after she was offered a position in Warsaw. “We arrived not knowing the language, but knowing we wanted to do something ourselves that ultimately involved working together.”
Originally from a marketing background, the idea to open a coffee shop was a daring one with Yarovyi acknowledging neither he nor his wife had any experience in management or as baristas. “Just a love for coffee,” he says.
“This was our first business,” continues Yarovyi, “so we figured that a six metre café would be easier to handle and afford than something that was twenty.”
Though defined by this early caution, the story of Dobro&Dobro is one of almost outrageous success. Limited by the floorplan of their debut café, the couple have since extended their portfolio by rolling out other, bigger cafes across the country under the Dobro&Dobro banner.
Last year saw the opening of their first franchise, and as things stand six Dobro&Dobro cafes of varying size now operate in Warsaw and Wrocław; in the near future, more are to be added both in Poland and abroad.
“Ultimately,” says Yarovyi, “we’re hoping for 100 Dobro&Dobro cafes by the end of next year.”
This growth, however, has not come to the detriment of their offer with Yarovyi enthusiastic to underline this point. “With our franchises,” he says, “we’re not just selling a business but an atmosphere as well. We’re not McDonald’s, we’re not just a standard chain. We want to take the idea of the original café – which will always remain our baby – and carry it further.”
“It’s vital to us that our franchisees recognize that there’s more to selling coffee. We want baristas that speak to customers, that engage with them.”
The “people first” philosophy is amply evidenced by their active promotion of ‘suspended coffee’, a concept that allows customers to buy a coffee in advance for the next customer whilst also leaving a message for them scribbled on the cup.
“We believe in the boomerang effect,” says Inna, “whereby that if you do something good, then something good will happen to you.”
This positive vibe is enhanced further by the signature orange tones liberally applied to all outposts of Dobro&Dobro. “That’s nothing to do with the Orange Revolution,” laughs Yarovyi, “it’s just a colour we feel heightens the good mood and relaxed air – and that’s good for sales!”
Adjusting well to their new life in Poland, the couple remain visibly proud of their Ukrainian heritage and, too, their staggering accomplishments. “There’s a general belief that the Ukrainians living in Poland are here to work on building sites,” says Yarovyi, “so it’s great to show another side, that we’re also investing in this country.”
Of this, there can be no doubt. From immeasurably modest beginnings, this Ukrainian couple have become role models for the entrepreneurial spirits, and their six metre café a bastion of inter-national relations.