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Eat & Drink

College St. cafe Voodoo Child is going international

Posted by Liora Ipsum / March 6, 2014

Voodoo Child South KoreaVoodoo Child, the tiny College Street cafe, bar and brunch destination is opening a second location in Gwangju, South Korea this April. Currently under construction, the new 1,300 square foot spot will be substantially larger than the Toronto outlet but will offer almost the same roster of teas, coffee roasts, cocktails and western-style brunches.

Owner David Shirazi Rad (who's hard at work in Toronto too) is overseeing the expansion and told me it took eight weeks to source, purchase and ship reclaimed furnishings, antiques and Canadiana ephemera abroad.

Toronto-based suppliers Sloane Fine Tea Merchants and coffee roaster, De Mello Palheta are on board to export custom blends for the Korean market, though it turns out that Pilot declined the opportunity (meaning expats will have to go without the house favourite, Big Bro).

Bruce Ly, the resident latte artist and rep on the competitive coffee-making circuit is set to make the trip overseas for the grand opening. Future plans also include the potential for a staff exchange program between international stores.



Rob / March 6, 2014 at 12:28 am
This is the strangest post I've ever seen here. Independent coffee is not really a hot commodity in Korea, especially in a beta Korean city like Gwangju.

Toronto also doesn't have the cache in Korea compared with other international locales.

Good luck, hopefully they aren't a victim of the extremely quick turnover in Korea.
js replying to a comment from Rob / March 6, 2014 at 09:26 am
that's not true at all, coffee is quite literally becoming a 'hot' commodity in Asia. Doi Chaang a thai/canadian company has 400 shops in Thailand and is apparently expanding to Korea as well. Having lived in Asia, I had hundreds of import/export ideas that I wanted to pull off while I was there. This makes a lot of sense.
Jow / March 6, 2014 at 10:02 am
It's going to be tough, really tough. Thousands of restaurants and coffee shops (cafe) open and close everyday due to high competition and relatively low barrier of entry. Product/Service differentiation is marginal. Interior design and shop identity is the competition of dollars. Consumers are impatient and demand quick service above all.

Kwangju is a relatively smaller market and may be less saturated, which (hopefully) will create positive feedback. Product and ingredient sourcing may experience some challenges, especially baked goods and some non-Korean ingredients used in the shop. Canadian/Torontonian image will have limited impact due to small relevance to consumers in Kwangju.

But, Korean consumers are trendy, tech-savy and highly-influenced by traditional/social media. If the new shop hits the right spots, they can gain strong initial traction.

It's a tough market with good opportunities. Wish you luck.
An Observer / March 6, 2014 at 11:42 am
It's hard to imagine them opening a shop elsewhere when their own Toronto shop is still very much incomplete. And what is this Canadiana/Toronto image? I never was aware there was a thing. It is a fallacy. Beards? Flannels? Natural resource exploitation? Hunting? (and other associated stereotypes). Even so, none of these are even associated with Voodoo Child. I find this to be paradoxical.
Craig / March 7, 2014 at 04:42 am
I live in Korea. Thousands of Koreans go to Toronto every year to study English; despite the dominance of the US, I predict that this will do well because Canada actually has a higher profile than at first appears. Also, it's new.

Prediction: This will go over well.

Also, Gwangju may seem like a second-or-third tier city, but it has a lot of students and former Canadian residents. It's also a local centre. The area around Gwangju is poorly served by everything, so this might actually have some traction. If they opened in Hongdae or some such place, it would be a cutthroat zoo.

It could do well. Passing it off as an error before they open is a mistake.

Eric / November 13, 2015 at 08:06 pm
I'm still stuck in Seoul with no idea how long it's going to take to get out of this airport. Might be able to talk Bruce into letting me work there part time if I'm still here come April. Otherwise, might be worth stopping in for a Salmon & Cream Cheese bagel and pour-over, just in case the bartender has 11 minutes to kill.
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