HELPERS is the leading provider of business and immigration services in Hungary.

Pagony, so much more than a bookstore

An interview with the managing directors of Pagony and Barako

Pagony is not just a bookstore. It is a space where you can spend some quality time: browse books, try board games, participate in various activities – and, from next Friday on, have a cup of, in our opinion, the best coffee in Budapest!

András Ürögdi, managing director at Pagony, has the vision of providing a pleasant experience to anyone who comes into the shop. Whether patrons want to take a look around the books and toys, try some of the board games, or bring their kids to one of the events, they will certainly find themselves in a friendly environment. It is nice to feel that you are taken care of, and the staff at Pagony bookstore are really good at just that.

Accordingly, he has found the ideal partner in Ryan Andres, the owner of Barako café, who holds the same values. When you enter his shop in Török utca, you can instantly feel the good vibes, that you are welcome, and you know you will really have a good time here – and a good coffee.

But let’s rewind. How did this partnership start?

András: I have always treated the store as a family centre, where people can come and spend some quality time. The three pillars of this concept are books, games, and the ongoing kids’ programs in the separate event rooms. We have had the idea of adding a café to the store facilities for quite some time, and a few months ago this idea became serious, and we decided to make it happen.

When you undertake a venture like this, the most important, and most challenging task is to create the concept. That is what will guide your steps by confirming why you want to do this and this, and not something else. Part of this was already given: I wanted to make an additional service available at the family centre style shop, which will offer the same excellent quality customers already know Pagony is dedicated to.

It was decided early on that the café should offer the best quality products we can get, and that it also has to be unique. As we do not have a kitchen at the café, we spent long months looking for suppliers. We wanted to ensure that we have the best possible menu, full of fantastic products you cannot have anywhere else together. And I am sure that guests will also find that, for example, the huge cookies and the salty peanut butter filled sweet chocolate cupcakes are not just delicious but extraordinary.

Finding really good coffee in Budapest is not so easy as it seems. You need to have the right beans and the right coffee machine. To make sure we really have the best quality, we decided to find suppliers for these separately. We got an excellent coffee machine from a partner of ours, but we still needed to find “the” coffee.

That is when we got really lucky. We’ve known Helpers Hungary for quite some time, and one time we mentioned to them that we are searching for a coffee supplier. Helpers has all kinds of clients, with all kinds of businesses, and it turned out they have a client, Ryan, who happens to sell coffee. They didn’t say too much about the topic, just that I should go to the shop and try the coffee. Which I did. And at that very moment I knew that this was the coffee we want to have at Pagony Café. I talked to Ryan, he seemed excited, and… well, the rest is history.

Ryan: When you are doing business, the key element is trust. Sure, it’s important that your partner sells the goods you need, but when you are looking for a partner, you can just go around on your own, meeting new people, and hope for the best. You either get lucky or you don’t. When starting to work with a new partner, who is at that point a stranger, you can never know how the relationship will turn out.

Helpers, we know them for years know. They assisted us with company formation and with our resident permits, and they also drop by the shop every now and then. So I knew that if they sent someone to us, we can surely trust them.

András: Yeah, in a business relationship, trust is what comes first. All the other professional issues can be worked on later. Of course, for that you also need good communication, and to have the same values and attitude to business. It is a great thing that we have just that between the teams of Pagony and Barako.

Ryan: Both our teams are really enthusiastic about this project. At Barako, we feel like the Pagony team and Pagony café was an extension to our shop. We know that the first 120 days of operation are critical, so all of us want to be here to ensure everything goes smoothly. Of course, that is not possible. So the guys started to compete about who can come here more often. In the end, we settled on a rotation system, so everyone will get some time to spend at Pagony.

What should we know about Barako coffee?

Ryan: Barako coffee is different from the Arabica coffee you can usually get in cafés or at shops. The taste is just not the same. You should try it. It’s a rare variety, making about 1% of the world’s coffee production. But it is not that rare in the Philippines, where I’ve come from, and where I get the coffee from the plantation of relatives. When I need more supplies, I order the coffee, they roast it there, and then it’s air-freighted to Europe. This regularly takes 1-2 weeks from order to shipment. This is how we can always serve fresh coffee to customers.

The fastest we ever got a shipment was in three days. It was a smaller order, for about 60 kilos. I placed the order on Monday, and my cousin was able to roast the coffee the same day. By the evening it was at the airport, then the shipper managed to put it on the next flight to Qatar, to Doha. After a slight stop there, it was shipped to Europe, and by Wednesday it was here. And it seems the customs office that day was in a good mood, because they released the shipment the same day, and I got it by 7 pm Wednesday.

Now it seems I will be able to roast the coffee here in Budapest. I have found a local partner company who work with coffee, and they are going to roast the coffee for me here. So I will not have any problems with shipping in the future.

Are you planning to expand the cooperation between Pagony and Barako?

András: Right now we have 5 bookstores in Hungary. They are all built on the same three pillars mentioned before, on books, games, and events. It would be nice to add the café to these core items in as many of our stores as possible.

The other week, I had a meeting about the next shop within the franchise system. While we were discussing the conditions, our partner asked if there was a possibility to have the café included in our agreement as well. This was something I had secretly been hoping for. So probably we will extend the franchise system, to have the regular option, bookshop, games and events, and have another option, to include the café as well. This would naturally mean we do more business with Barako as well.

What do you think the key to success is?

András: It is not enough to have a good idea. It’s not like you form a company on your idea and then customers just pour in by magic. For this you need marketing. You need to create the concept, or mission behind your actions. This will help you formulate the message you want to communicate. This, in turn, will be the basis for your marketing strategy.

For us at Pagony, the goal is not to sell books. We want to provide more. We want people to feel welcome when they walk in the store, and feel good when they walk out, regardless of whether they purchased anything. When someone comes in looking for a specific item we don’t have, we usually check on the internet where they do have it on stock, including our competition. It can also happen that we do have that item, but it turns out the book would not really be good for the child, for example, because it is intended for older or younger kids. So the given person may well leave without actually buying anything, but having had a better customer experience, which is the most important thing for us.

Another thing is that you cannot be successful on your own. You will need your team and your partners for that. You should share the same core values, which is more important than any qualifications. You will be able to build on that, overcome obstacles together, and work together to reach the common goals.

Pagony Café is opening on 22 April, at 6 pm at the Pagony bookstore near Gellért tér (Bartók Béla út 5, 11th district, Budapest). Come and meet András, Ryan and the team, and take a look around the shop. Check out the special opening offer: buy a cake, and get a Barako coffee for free! For more information, join the Facebook event here.


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