Story last updated at 9/5/2012 - 1:15 pm
Whether or not something quite like Meghan Grunow's dream exists already, she didn't know about it when she started scheming. It says quite a bit about the 29-year-old Juneau born and raised woman.
Grunow intends to operate a charity café. That is, a business that consistently donates a percentage of its proceeds. To whom?
"Not just a specific person," Grunow emphasized. "I love donating to (charities), but something that's bothered me is that I have no idea where my money is going."
So the idea of her future café is to raise money for different groups, nonprofits and things like class projects via a restaurant, The Halcyon Café, and what she calls "The Other Room." This other room would host adult and children's lunchtime and evening yoga classes, as well as lectures and presentations. It could also serve as a location for board meetings.
"Juneau has over 100 nonprofits," Grunow said. And she's served on a number of boards of directors. She said it was often difficult to find adequate locations to host the meetings.
"Obviously, it will be first come first serve," Grunow said. "I can't have all 100 at once."
Grunow said her plan would be to donate a percentage of Halcyon's gross profits at least weekly.
"Projects that we can viably make a significant difference for in under three months," Grunow said. Then, they'd celebrate. "Have a fun party for it, and switch to the next project."
The idea for Grunow's operation has evolved over more than a decade. It started when she was in high school. An art teacher assigned a marketing project for class.
"She gave the assignment to create a brand, a logo, and different ways this imaginary business would happen and how you would market it," Grunow said. She named her project, a café, Caffienation. "That planted the seeds in the back of my mind."
She kept the concept alive through college, speaking out about it to her friends. After graduating from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in fine art, Grunow moved to southern California. She was scouring the Internet and came across the word "halcyon," which has several definitions.
"The word means 'tranquil influence' among other things," Grunow said. "But it also means 'times of prosperity and peace.' It also means King Fischer, which is a type of bird."
She says she'll be using the bird as her mascot.
In California, Grunow began hosting events under the name of Halcyon, which she called "Fund and Awareness raisers."
"They were parties with a heart," Grunow said.
They would serve to raise awareness about a particular nonprofit or cause. They were both successful and earned her some recognition. She was twice flown to New York City to be honored for her efforts. She had been working a marketing job for a resort company, and with the recession, the branch of the company for whom she worked was closed. She then moved to Denver, Colo., in 2007. She spent a full year there trying to get a job, which fortuitously wasn't fruitful. She had down time. Time to develop her aspirations for Halcyon Café. She continued to throw events while in Denver. Eventually a friend asked her what she was going to do if she couldn't find work. What were her ambitions, the friend inquired, what was the next step? Do something, her friend said.
So Grunow began researching how to write business plans, and did just that. Then she tried pitching it to investors.
"It was 2008, a restaurant was a high risk investment," Grunow said. "No one was interested. I got lots of good practice, encouragement and tips, but no investors."
Her thoughts for the café began evolving to fit into the Juneau community. In 2009, she called her Denver job search a bust and returned to her hometown.
Grunow noticed several things about Juneau. For one, there was a lack of yoga classes that started after 5:30 p.m., the time she got off work (she found a job). Second, she noticed that she encountered a lot of people that didn't drink alcohol, and noted that there weren't really any places to hang out that weren't bars. Additionally, she saw single parents feeling isolated, as well as families and caregivers, consumed in the attention their roles require.
Halcyon Café would address all these concerns. Grunow wants to host yoga classes at 7 p.m., as well as half hour lunch classes that would allow someone to grab lunch in her café on their way out. She also wants to host children's classes. This, she said, would offer parents and caregivers "The opportunity to socialize, drink coffee. It's a great way to meet people and chat."
Her café would stay open until late.
"I want a place where you can order a cheese plate and a decaf cup of coffee and stay there until two hours before the bars close," Grunow said.
Cheese is a central component of Grunow's business plan. Her star menu item will be gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.
"It's just crispy, buttery, gooey, cheesy amazingness," Grunow said. "And then you add the gourmet ingredients, it just gets better."
Bacon jam and pesto are just two of the ingredients she'd like to see in those grilled cheeses. She also plans to offer build-your-own sandwiches and salads and obtain a beer and wine license.
"I love beer," Grunow explained. "I'm going to specialize in craft beers." In addition, she said she's been in communication with a beer distributor that specializes in nonalcoholic brews.
The food and general business, Grunow said, will be one that's "socially conscious."
This theme is apparent in her floor plans, viewable at her website, www.juneaucharitycafe.com. She wants a long scalloped bar.
"It annoys me when you're with a group of friends (sitting at a bar) and you're at the end and you're always asking 'What? What?' and you just end up checking Facebook," Grunow said.
So the curvy bar would facilitate semi-circles and ensure that no one directly faces the back wall. She also, has designed her future café to encourage cross-fertilization, mingling with people patrons may have not come with the intention of meeting. She has a large European style table running the length of her café that would mirror the shape of the bar. Behind the table she would have single tops and, she emphasized, some very comfortable booths, living room furniture and ottomans.
"It will feel like a living room," Grunow said. "If your friend was into vintage stuff and art. It will definitely be eccentric in a fun way. 'Quirky' I guess is the word for that."
Grunow has the interior of her operation firmly mapped out, just not a physical home, though she's set on a downtown location.
While Grunow seems to have all the details down, from her menu to the floor and business plans, and she's got the heart to make this happen, she's missing the defibrillator: money.
Grunow found the business equivalent of Kickstarter, a common online fundraising tool. It's called Fundable. Like Kickstarter, Fundable requests users to name a top dollar amount and an end date. Investors receive incentives determined by how much they donate and the host doesn't receive a dime of any pledged money if the full amount isn't raised by the deadline. Grunow began her Fundable project on Aug. 14. It will end on Sept. 30. Awards for investors are planned.
Grunow will be having an event at September's First Friday series at the Goldtown Theater at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7. The evening will serve as a question and answer session about Halcyon Café. There will be beverages and a three-minute video will continuously play featuring photos and sketches of Grunow's current course of action. And action for her means action for the community, as an events' venue, social gathering place, late night bar alternative, eatery, caffeine fix and most importantly, a generous operation devoted to funding local projects.
To learn more about Halcyon Café, visit www.juneaucharitycafe.com.
Amanda Compton is the staff writer at the Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.