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Sampa

LEATHER LANE, LONDON, UK

Words: The Ozone Family

GUI PETRINI | OPENED: SEPT 2015

What did you do before you opened Sampa?

Almost my entire background is in movie production and commercials and I’ve always been in the middle of some sort of storytelling related projects. There is something about stories that just moves me and because of that I created Storias, a creative agency that lives to help small businesses find their voice in today’s crowded markets.

Why did you decide to open a coffee shop?

We created Sampa to be a hub for people to meet, create and collaborate or just to read a nice book. We believe that speciality coffee, fine teas and down-to-earth food are there to help people to feel at ease, fuelling their talks, dreams and creations.

Another big goal was to put together a great team of people who would get along well – with unique characteristics and skills. After the first six months, we have already created this at Sampa. Friends – working, having fun and fighting hard together to deliver high standards, without the nonsense. We are a friendly and unusual space that breathes culture and creativity.

Can you pinpoint a defining moment when the dream turned into reality?

The point of no return? As you’re probably aware, London is not the cheapest place on earth to open a coffee shop and the competition is immense, so it took us more than a year to find the perfect spot for Sampa. It was a real battle to secure the lease and it took us several months until we saw our contract for the first time. Eventually, after navigating a bureaucratic sea, we signed the lease. I think this was the first time I realised Sampa was really happening. It was a day to celebrate, a mixture of happiness and fear, a really strange combination that I hope to live many more times.

Several months later, I was on top of a step ladder with Adda, my co-founder, finalising our beloved green wall when Pervez, also a co-founder, started removing the papers that were covering our shopfront, finally unveiling what we had created. I remember asking him – “Wait, are we ready to remove this?” and he replied – “Sooner or later we need to, we will always have something else to finalise or add before opening, so let’s do it.” So we did and it was like unwrapping the biggest gift of our lives.

Is the reality reflective of your early dreams? 

It’s good to plan, it helps you to understand exactly what you want, how to achieve it and when. But at the same time it’s important to understand that the plans will change, they simply need to. And that’s also a good thing.

We kept changing Sampa from the first drawings to the day we opened the doors. And we keep changing it actually, since it’s quite impossible to know how the public will react to the things you create. The best thing to do is to react as quick as possible. People won’t wait for too long.

The only thing that won’t change much over time is our purpose.

We often hear about people’s mistakes in the early days. What did you get right from day one?

We knew exactly what we were getting into. We were aware of how tough this industry can be. And after all these months I can tell you, that this is the truth. The really hard truth.

I often hear people deciding to have a coffee shop as a hobby or, wait for it, to have “something on the side to pay the bills”. This couldn’t sound more wrong to me. It’s hard and extremely demanding to do this right. You do not have plenty of time for your “main” career and, if you do, in my opinion, you will definitely not be managing the coffee shop as well as you should. If you don’t have the stamina and a different purpose than purely financial, you will never live to see the day when you can “take something out” of the business.

The refurbishment of a site can be stressful, even more so if you don’t have interior designers on your side. You need to take control of everything yourself, exploring all the possibilities and thinking way, way ahead. After all, this is your baby, so be ready to stay awake during several nights in order to get the best bar configuration possible! You have to imagine how your coffee shop will work in the future - work stations, flow of staff and customers, size and position of equipment…

How did Ozone get involved?

We had a coffee profile in mind when we started to mould Sampa into shape. We visited different roasteries, looking at all sorts of aspects, but Ozone caught our attention from the first meeting. Not just due to their experience, but they take the quality of everything they do really seriously. These qualities were exactly aligned with what we were looking for.

All the support they continue to provide has made Sampa who we are now. We are so proud to work with an amazing and passionate group of professionals and to be part of this growing family. Quality prevails indeed.

What are you going to be doing in 10 years?

I really just want to continue doing things that I love. There is no point in living a life without feeling complete in what you do. Your work, projects, dreams will always occupy a great part of your day. Why go through it doing something that is just not good enough for you and for others?