Recently, a video of a small café in Penang has gone viral, gaining 3.4 million views with over 100,000 likes on Instagram.
But unlike your usual café, this one is only open three hours in the morning. Named Lea Beans & Living, guests can only patronise them from 7AM to 10AM from Monday to Saturday. Oh, and be sure not to wear anything too thick, as only outdoor seating is available here.
While the patio clears out by 10 every morning, inside, a new day would be about to begin. Because when it’s not welcoming customers, this address is actually home to an interior design firm by the name of Ceed Design.
Interior design firm on the inside, café on the outside
Both born and bred on the island of Penang, couple Eugene and Edith are the people behind Lea Beans & Living, as well as Ceed Design.
Speaking to Vulcan Post, Eugene shared how he got into interior design, starting with reading travel and photography magazines as a child.
“The pictures in the magazines were always inspiring and that gave me an idea that one fine day, I want to design my own cosy house,” he reminisced.
Making his dreams a reality, Ceed Design was founded over a decade ago in 2011.
“The intention to start my own firm was purely because the rebel side of me just wants to break the rules and do something spontaneous,” he shared. “When I was with my previous company, there are strict guidelines to follow and I find myself with limited chances to express my ideas.”
Therefore, he decided to venture out as a freelance designer, whereby he could express his ideas freely while taking full responsibility for the outcome.
This mindset of spontaneity and freedom of expression can clearly be observed in Lea Beans & Living, too.
An ode to morning rituals
Named after Eugene and Edith’s daughter, Lea Beans & Living was founded in 2022. The two have been coffee lovers for a while, but beyond just enjoying the beverage itself, they found joy basking in the cosy and chill environment of a café.
“We have a daily practice among our designers,” Eugene shared. “Every morning there will be 30 minutes of ‘me time’ to kick start the day. We will use this 30 minutes for breakfast, coffee, and getting inspiration from magazine or social media platforms.”
This ritual gave them an idea. Why not welcome others to kick start their days with this same routine?
In the early days, they started off with a home-use coffee machine that was in the café. In time, though, they also acquired a commercial use coffee machine, grinder, and other barista tools such as a tamper, knock box, pitcher, and more.
Altogether, the startup cost was around RM35k to RM40k.
To kickstart the business, they organised a soft launch with free drinks, open to friends and relatives. From there, they began to get exposure on social media and through word of mouth.
Three hours a day
The reason for opening only three hours a day is not just because the team gets busy later in the day, but rather, because they only provide outdoor seating for café guests.
“7AM to 10AM is the perfect morning time as the sun’s heat is still bearable with lots of vitamin E,” Eugene pointed out. “Then after 10AM, we would prefer to focus back on our design work.”
The maximum capacity available at a time is about 18 pax. As for parking concerns, Eugene shared that there are many council car park lots along the road, as well as a commercial basement car park right in front of the café.
These days, the Lea Beans & Living team comprise a barista and a server, who are Eugene’s cousins. With backgrounds as a pâtissier and baker, the cafe serves as a platform to showcase their bakes. They serve about 25 to 30 cups per day on average.
When asked about profitability, Eugene said that the business is not exactly financially lucrative.
However, he believes that instead of money, they’re “profiting” in terms of network and exposure, as the café has helped build more trust and exposure for their design business.
“It does help to set the mood for us and for the designers as well,” Eugene added. “Because every morning we get to meet different people from different backgrounds. It feels kind of interesting because you won’t know who will be visiting.”
Serving the neighbourhood
In the viral Lea Beans & Living video, many netizens had shared their concerns in the comments about turning what looked to be a residential area into a commercial retail lot.
“In our case, the area here are mostly converted into a commercial zone,” Eugene explained. “We have offices, retail shops, restaurants, saloons, and more.”
Given the location, the founder shared that there are often white-collar workers getting their cup of joe at Lea Beans & Living before work. Other kinds of customers include joggers and cyclists, or morning market shoppers. Most, Eugene believes, are from the neighbourhood.
Regarding the virality of their quaint café, Eugene said he didn’t expect it at all.
He added, “But it feels good to inspire people to pursue their passion, to take action and do the things that they have always wanted to do.”
With that, we wondered whether Eugene and Edith would have more ambitious dreams to expand Lea Beans & Living, leveraging the video’s popularity.
To that, he said that there aren’t any long-term goals for Lea Beans & Living, at least at the moment. Instead, they just want to enjoy the morning vibes and continue serving their regulars.
This people-centric lens is something that translates into how the duo runs Ceed Design as well.
“Our people are always the heart of everything we do,” Eugene shared.
“We believe that positive culture will lead to strong rapport and success, which is why we strive to align our values, beliefs, and attitudes to build strong relationships with our team. We like to keep our team small but sharp.”
- Learn more about Lea Beans & Living here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about F&B businesses here.
Featured Image Credit: Lea Beans & Living