Pupusaari – A Local living room and community delight

Pupusaari – From a suburban coffee shop to a chain in less than a year

Late April marks the first anniversary of local coffee shop Pupusaari, located in Kivenlahti, Espoo. Founder of Pupusaari and CEO of her own media agency, Linda Mustakari, never could have anticipated the events that would unfold during their first year of business. Spring of 2020, just as Pupusaari was set to celebrate its opening, the pandemic forced the Finnish Government to declare Emergency Powers Act. All restaurants were to close their doors indefinitely. But open they did, during a lockdown, uncertain of what the future will bring for Pupusaari. Opening day was a huge success, everything sold out, even with social distancing rules and only take-away options. The welcome was phenomenal.

” My first time at Pupusaari won’t be the last. The Avocado bagel was tasty, nutty, and cinnamon-flavored granola delicious and the latte wonderfully soft. The staff <3’’ ”
Facebook review (translated)

A year, over a million in revenue, thousands of lattes, 14 weeks of closed doors, and 15 new employees later, Pupusaari has expanded from Kivenlahti to Soukka and Olari as well. Not even in her wildest dreams, could Mustakari have imagined things going the way they did. After all, the future of Pupusaari during a pandemic had Mustakari worrying even before they had opened for business.

Pupusaari’s first year also included a third place in Edenred’s ‘’Finland’s Best Lunch 2020’’ -competition and plenty of media attention. Various newspaper articles praised the suburban café opened during a pandemic.

 

Identity rooted in the suburbs of Espoo

The story of Pupusaari begins with a classic dream of running your own coffee shop. This dream was defined and refined with the help of a few Mustakari’s friends already working in the restaurant business. Living in Kivenlahti, she would often find herself dreaming of a cozy place, tasty lunch, and a good cup of coffee, without having to go to Helsinki Center for those things. She felt like the suburbs in Espoo deserved their own coffee shops and services where there weren’t any yet.

”’ We love the suburbs of Espoo, we believe they deserve their own café’s. A place to relax and enjoy ”.
Linda Mustakari (translated)

After almost ten years of thinking ‘’Maybe someone will do it’’, Mustakari decided to be that someone herself. She caught her eye on an ‘’available for rent’’ -sign on a window of a familiar business space in her old neighborhood. That was the last push she needed. Family-run business Pupusaari got off to a flying start when Linda (left) and her husband Juhani Kähönen (right) began establishing the business. Although they faced doubt from banks and comments like ‘’the people of Kivenlahti don’t go to café’s’’, they didn’t give up. Determined to succeed, they built Pupusaari themselves, down to every brushstroke and permit paper application.

”Lovely breakfast, cozy atmosphere, and delightful staff. Wonderful to have a gem like this within a walking distance from home. ”
Facebook review (translated)

Pupusaari was born and built around the suburbs. They are an inseparable part of Pupusaari’s identity and DNA, because to Mustakari and her husband, the suburbs have always felt like home. In addition, due to the pandemic, many were introduced to remote work with only very few versatile lunch options. This is clear looking at Edenred lunch card and ticket use. Mustakari confirms that the desire for a place to use lunch benefits was huge.

 

Adaptation and innovation during a pandemic

Ever since the beginning of their story, Pupusaari has had to adapt to rapid changes and ‘’it is what it is’’ – mentality. Constantly developing the business has resulted in learning lessons along the way, but more often in success and growth. Ideas have come up organically, feedback from customers listened carefully, new ideas tested and implemented within resources. Pupusaari has always been brutally honest with customers when communicating about resources and their limitations. It is part of the reason why the coffee chain feels so authentic, approachable, and compassionate.

During their first year, Pupusaari has experimented with changing lunch menus, breakfast bundles, brunch, afternoon tea, tapas, their very own craft beer in partnership with Espoo Brewhouse, take away deposit lunch boxes, Pupusaari Beach Bike -café on wheels and lunchtime yoga. The most recent endeavor was establishing a partnership with autoverkkokauppa.fi, enabling Pupusaari to deliver their products themselves to those no other delivery service would reach.

 

Doing good sustainably, together and with the community

Amid all their success, Pupusaari didn’t forget to give back to the community. They emphasize the power within the community, other entrepreneurs, and those less fortunate. Selfless kindness radiates from the actions of Pupusaari, and they inspire others to give back as well. They have launched an anonymous way to provide a prepaid ”cup of compassion” aka a cup of coffee for someone in need or purchasing an amusement park ticket for disadvantaged children.

The coffee shop sells treats and goods produced by local business owners (e.g. Knitsocks made by a grandmother), and Pupusaari actively shares their social media platform to promote local small businesses. They also promote other local restauranteurs to drive business their way during these trying times.

”’ We all need you. Order takeout from any of your local restaurants. Even if we think Pupusaari’s treats are the best option, everyone else is providing delicious and mouthwatering dishes as well.”
Pupusaari’s Instagram (translated)

To Pupusaari, doing good also means doing it sustainably. Utilizing recycling centers to hunt down treasures like preloved china to serve their afternoon tea from, monthly reports on reduced food waste, and partnering up with ResQ-app to reduce food waste daily.

 

Pupusaari aspires to make their customers’ day genuinely better

When asked about Pupusaari’s strengths and the source for outstanding customer feedback, Mustakari already knows the answer by heart:

”’We wanna have fun at work, exceed customer expectations every day, and provide customers with immediate and genuine service culture, making their day a little better. It’s something perhaps Finns aren’t used to.”. (translated)

The customer service approach adapted from America, quite literally as Mustakari’s husband is half American, has proved to be an endearing and strategic asset. Even if small talk with the staff seemed confusing at first, Pupusaari has established its position as a suburban living room for their customers. Everyone’s invited to relax and enjoy delicious treats as themselves, and the welcoming words written on Pupusaari’s window say it best:

 

”’The most wonderful people on earth pass through these doors. Our customers.” (Translated)

 

Pupusaari aims to be the everyday glimmer of happiness and its story has just begun. Fulfilling Mustakari’s own and her customers’ wishes about expanding the Pupusaari territory beyond Espoo or even outside the metropolitan area, doesn’t seem far-fetched to her – All without compromising the suburban coffee shop identity of course.

 

”’We have provided services to areas where there previously were none. We are entrepreneurs and accept the risks that come with it because we want to make the lives of your customers and staff a little bit better – Thank you. Without you, there is no us.”
Pupusaari’s Instagram (translated)

 

Check out Pupusaari, their delicious menu, and the latest news at www.pupusaari.fi

Keep following Pupusaari’s story on Instagram @pupusaari and on Facebook Kahvila&Putiikki Pupusaari

 

 

 

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