Friday, June 25, 2010
Project Survival Series…

Living the Dream of Food: Making the shift from Wall Street to Durham’s Main Street
By: Cameron Snipes

Durham – Dorian Bolden’s dream of opening his own business became a reality once he realized that life is more than just a paycheck. After leaving a high-paying job as a Wall Street financial adviser, Bolden began his quest.

He launched Beyu Caffé on Dec. 9 with the help of a dozen investors who put up a total of $500,000. The three largest investors are co-founder and Executive Chairman Henry Kaestner, entrepreneur Mark Noel and his daughter Wendy Noel, a project manager at TROSA.

Bolden had some early experience in the food-service business, and he’s a lover of coffee. So the career turn wasn’t as much of a stretch as it may seem. Beyu Caffé occupies a 3,000-square-foot upfitted space on West Main Street that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The concept for the restaurant is modeled after a European coffee house in his hometown of Atlanta that he frequented.

The cafe’s main attraction is its various blends for coffees, au-laits, espressos, cappuccinos, mochas and lattes. The eatery also features desserts, which Beyu gets from local independent bakeries – the only food not made in-house. The sweet treats range from an Oreo truffle and German chocolate cake to tiramisu and cheesecake.

As for the business end of the cafe, lessons already have been learned the hard way, Bolden says. Beyu received a great response from the outset, the result of aggressive pre-promotion on websites and news outlets before the opening. “There were so many people that we couldn’t really control them,” Bolden says. He adds that, like most new retail businesses, he purposefully overstaffed for the first few weeks. “I’m glad we did that,” he adds.

By the end of Beyu Caffè’s first full month, most of the kinks had been worked out and the eatery pulled in about $50,000. “We really hit the ground running,” Bolden says. “It was so refreshing to see that the bulk of downtown Durham had accepted us.”

Now with about 30 staffers, Beyu seems to have found its sweet spot, operationally. The cafe’s largest month to date was April, when revenue almost hit $75,000. Bolden attributes that high to the newness of the restaurant and the warmer temperatures that come with spring. The cafe attracts quite a bit of walk-by traffic, Bolden says. “We definitely saw an increase in business after it got a little warmer and people were out more,” he adds.

On the flip side, the month of June is turning out to be Beyu’s slowest so far. Bolden believes that perhaps the “new car smell” is wearing off and graduations and summer breaks have reduced the number of people passing by the restaurant’s windows.

Still, Bolden says, the cafe has been hovering at the break-even mark since March. “As long as we keep our costs in check, we’ll break even,” he says.

Even so, the biggest challenge that remains for the cafe, Bolden says, is building the customer base and getting one-timers back in the door. “We want to bring back those people who may not have had a good experience back in the door,” he says.

How that will be accomplished will be a main priority as Beyu goes forward.