My Second Act (Part 6) - Thor Balanon – The Creative Copywriter Who Became A Café Owner

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Thor Balanon – The Creative Copywriter Who Became A Café Owner

Description: Thor Balanon has made Subspace a destination for lovers of coffee and K-pop

Thor Balanon has made Subspace a destination for lovers of coffee and K-pop

As the associate creative director for Three-sixty Design, Inc., Thor Balanon had the luxury of playing with words. “I was in charge of writing copy, brainstorming for ideas, coming up with concepts, and presenting them to the client. I liked doing radio ads, more specifically.” While the advertising industry may have been the perfect place for creative minds such as his, the job wore him down, forcing him to look for other outlets. “I love the business but it became very stressful sometimes. And the client, as they say, is always right, so once in a while you also get tired of that.” After three years, he resigned from his post and decided to shift his focus to Space Encounters that an opportunity for another business venture unfolded. “People would come up and ask if we served coffee, and the idea of having a coffee house was planted by those observations.” After so many clients had mistaken Space Encounters for a café, Thor – who had always wanted to open his own coffee house – finally did so, together with Wilmer.

As expected from a creative genius, the shop is very different from what we’re all used to. For concept and inspiration, he turned to South Korea. “When we went to Seoul, we discovered an art district called Hongik University. It is similar to the UP College of Fine Arts. All the surrounding cafés are very unique and creative. We also after drinks that originated in Seoul, like the Purple Potato Latte. We’re the only ones who serve it here in Manila.”

Description: The Purple Potato Latte

The Purple Potato Latte

Apart from original coffee concoctions, the whole experience inevitably drives people to pack the small space on a Friday night. The Dark Choco Mint and Peanut Butter Lattes may be easy lures for coffee-holics, but for the rest, it’s the Asian pop star posters, the occasional screenings of Korean films (free!) and quirky design – exposed pipes, vintage items adorning the shelves, and the shop’s focal point, the Anti-gravity Chairs-turned-ceiling lamp – that draw them in.

Subspace has become a hub for people who are just like Thor – K-pop fans who can’t last a day without coffee. It’s become his home and everybody’s welcome to join him. “I’m here every day because I also love making coffee myself. We only have two staff members on rotation and whenever there are a lot of customers, it gets pretty wild. So I help out. Even then, this is more relaxed than what I used to do. You get to meet different types of people. Every day is just an adventure for me.”

Subspace Coffee is at Unit 103 GF Grand Emerald Tower, F. Ortigas Jr. Road (formerly Emerald Avenue), Ortigas Center, Pasig City; tel. no.: 655-7077. For film showings and other promos, follow them at facebook.com/subspace.coffee and @TSubspace on Twitter.

 Ready to brew?

Wilmer Valderrama offers advice on opening a coffee joint.

·         Love your product

“Have it every day until you know it like the back of your hand. Thor, for example, drinks at least five cups of coffee a day. If you’re just starting out, it helps to be around for a full day so you get a feel of the flow of the people.”

·         Experiment with your brew, syrups, and presentation

“A trademark blend, and unexpected flavor, and a quirky touch helped Subspace stand out and build a cult following.”

·         Be creative!

“There are so many cafés out there, so you should offer something that will make people come back. The experience should be part of that package. At Subspace, we transport guests to Seoul through the interiors, coffee, and music.”

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