“Let’s Vegan” and “Damdam,” teams consisting of Ewha students from Kiwoom Restaurants project, will operate stores from April to June at Sinchon Boxquare. Kiwoom Restaurants is one of the projects organized by Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation to provide hands-on experiences for youths under 39 seeking to open restaurants. There are five different places in Korea where Kiwoom Restaurants have opened, one of which is Boxquare.
Teams selected as Kiwoom Restaurants are given a single-container space with a kitchen on the second floor of Boxsquare to open their restaurants for one to three months. While Damdam will operate throughout May and June, Let’s Vegan’s restaurant will only be open during April.
Vege Bear, the name of Let’s Vegan’s restaurant, opened its doors on April 2. Consisting of five students from three different departments, the store sells a bowl of rice with toppings, soy milk tea and tea ades. Min Sung-joo, a senior majoring in Content Covergence and also a member running Vege Bear, shared why members decided to sign up for the program and run the store.
“Not everyone in our team was interested in opening a restaurant from the beginning,” Min said. “Members majoring in Content Convergence got interested in veganism as we met regularly to discuss environment-related projects. We wanted to support veganism in universities so we signed up for Kiwoom Restaurant project. The other two members who were interested in opening a restaurant joined us.”
Vege Bear focuses on preparing vegetarian cuisines, as their initial purpose of opening their restaurant was to support veganism. The members felt that while more people were being introduced to veganism at Ewha, there were not enough vegan restaurants nearby.
“Most vegan restaurants near Ewha have a limited choice of dishes,” Min said. “The dishes are mostly salads or non-vegan dishes without the ingredients vegans would not consume. Thus, we wanted to provide a healthy and decent meal at a reasonable price for vegans.”
When running Vege Bear, members had to consider many different things such as containers to reduce plastic, sanitation and work schedules. They also had difficulties predicting demands in the first week, making them run out of food supplies and go grocery shopping during their business hours.
Min shared future plans on Vege Bear.
“I hope that we can grow into a cultural space that spreads veganism. If we are given opportunities in the future, I hope we can also deal with vegan-friendly clothing and other non-mainstream cultures.”
Damdam is planning to sell injeolmi waffles and Korean traditional liquor based cocktails. Their goal is to spread the thought among women in their twenties that Korean traditional liquor can also be made into cocktails.
“When people in their twenties hear Korean traditional liquor such as Andong Soju they consider it old and do not know how they should enjoy them,” said An Da-som, a senior majoring Business Administration and also a member of Damdam. “Thus, we made them into cocktails and came up with the idea of serving desserts with them.”
Damdam’s journey started from Yang Hye-rim, a senior majoring in Nutritional Science & Food Management, participating in a startup contest opened by College of Science & Industry Convergence. Yang won the contest with a startup named Grandma Brews, a store featuring the concept of makgeolli made from a grandmother’s recipe.
Yang realized that she did not have enough knowledge about Korean traditional liquor and gathered more members to open a store together. Their slogan is “let women in twenties know more about Korean traditional liquor with our store.”
Preparing busily for the opening of their store, members have faced some difficulties as it was their first time running a business.
“As Boxquare opened in September 2018, no one has experienced summer there,” Yang said. “Thus, that is one of the difficulties we may be facing, as there is no data we can refer to. Another difficulty is that weather has a big influence since Boxquare is outdoors.”
Despite these difficulties, members of Damdam are trying their best to prepare for their openings by conducting market research at Sinchon Boxquare. They also tried to eat foods sold by Kiwoom Restaurants operating in March and April about two to three times a week.
Park Ye-eun, a senior majoring in Ceramic Arts and a member of Damdam, explained that they are trying to add fun to customers who visit the store.
“Customers can taste Korean traditional liquor in porcelain cups and even buy them if they want,” Park said. “We will also sell liquor bottles gift sets and limited edition of photo cards.”