Coffee Bean doors reopen along with Vaisigano Bridge
The bustling Coffee Bean on Beach Road is back in action.
It follows a two-month hiatus, with the Cafe owners returning with renewed optimism now the Vaisigano Bridge is open.
Owner, Andrew Pedrana, said despite the economic hardship brought on the COVID-19 pandemic, the bridge construction forced his hand to close after several tough months of dwindling customers.
Now, with a new chef in the kitchen and a fresh menu, Mr. Pedrana is confident the Bean will return to the Apia coffee scene with a bang.
He has partnered up with Italian, David Scaroni, and his 18-year-old son Daniel, a cheffing duo fresh out of the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s kitchen, who has designed a limited menu to go with a daily special to contend with a changeable produce supply.
Every morning he bakes fresh loaves of focaccia and picks out whatever is in season at the markets he visits.
“What I buy in the morning, I want to finish the afternoon,” Mr. Scaroni said. “The customer is not stupid, the customer always understands the difference between good food and bad food.”
Mr. Pedrana and Mr. Scaroni’s partnership was forged over beers and a handshake at Cocktails on the Rocks, where the café owner is managing the bar and the chef was, well, having a beer after leaving his role at the Sheraton.
“I had to reinvent myself somewhere,” he said. “Having a beer at the bar, that is where you reinvent yourself, right,” Mr. Pedrana laughed.
“One beer turned into two, turned into three, turned into a restaurant.”
Before closing the café in July, Mr. Pedrana ran the entire café operation himself and found himself gradually overwhelmed by it. And with business suffering, he took on a second gig as bar and kitchen manager at Cocktails on the Rocks, which helped his pocket but not his stress levels.
Now with someone just as passionate as he is running the Coffee Bean’s kitchen, Mr. Pedrana said he is finally enjoying running his café again.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” he said.
“We are both mutually as passionate about creating something really good here, and you can see it in his food, the amount of work he puts into the prep, and the thought behind it all. It’s refreshing to have someone who cares about what he does.”
The café has been open again for nearly two weeks and has already returned to its old busy hum. When the Samoa Observer visited on Saturday morning more than half the tables were occupied with families and groups of friends.
Mr. Pedrana left Australia for Samoa in early 2018 and took over the Coffee Bean from his cousin in March. Not long after that, he relocated the café to its current spot on Beach Road where it has been growing steadily ever since.
But the location came with serious challenges that only got worse as the construction in Vaisigano Bridge encroached further and further onto the stretch in front of the café.
Like many in Samoa, Mr. Pedrana is happy with the finished product, but he is still recovering from the damage it did to his business.
“I was very close to shutting the doors for good and selling it all, I was down to my last penny,” Mr. Pedrana said.
“But I thought you know what, I didn’t come to Samoa to give it up and the thought of going back to Australia with my tail between my legs was more daunting than giving it one last shot.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of tourists in Samoa played a part in the café’s downturn too, but since reopening, Mr. Pedrana says the construction and the frequent delays in the project was a much bigger issue.
With the road open, and his experience down the road at Cocktails on the Rocks revealing a strong demand for hospitality despite the economic downturn, Mr. Pedrana was confident reopening the café would spell success.
“There is still a strong local economy, people still want to go out and do normal things, even though money is tight.
“With the local economy supporting each other we can still do quite well, we can still live a relatively normal life. We don’t have COVID so we need to ensure we have some semblance of a working economy.
“We need to move the money around within our community, not tucking it away for a rainy day – this is the rainy day.”
Mr. Pedrana said Samoa needs to invest in the business community so that the tourism industry can survive the immediate crisis and be ready to accept tourists when the opportunity comes.
Properties cannot sit on ice until the borders open, he said, with maintenance and staffing challenges potentially unsurmountable if left too long.
Even closing for two months meant the Coffee Bean could not rehire half the staff it had to let go, with people taking on responsibilities at home or getting new jobs.
“I wasn’t able to turn it back on like a tap, it took a bit of time and effort.”
As well as his son, Mr. Scaroni wife Isabella is part of the Coffee Bean family now too. The front of house is served expertly by Fotu and Joanna.
Mr. and Mrs. Scaroni first met in Samoa back in 1999, when Mr. Scaroni was working as a bartender for two years. They married, returned to Italy, and came back to the island two years ago.
The chef said he is happy to make the Coffee Bean’s kitchen as good as its coffee already is.
Mr. Pedrana said the family’s willingness to dive into the business has made the café’s return possible.
“We are learning on the job as to how we work together, and I think because we can see each other’s passion it shows in the food and the coffee.”