Go Farther: The Mangaka Artist Cafe And America

Last week Bonnie noticed that there's a mangaka cafe in Japan – a cafe with the usual food, drinks, and internet, but also spaces and resources for artists to work in.  Of course, you know me – I had to speculate on if this might be a good idea in the United States/North America.

So first up, let's analyze what these cafes do:

  • They provide the usual cafe service.
  • They provide internet and related service.
  • They provide tools and space for artists.
  • The above means they provide a community for people.
  • The environment is designed to uniquely support this creative community.

Now, could things like this work in the US?  I'd approach this as a negative and say I see no reason why not, though I don't think a cafe pitched just towards manga/comics would work in the US (at least not yet – but as manga/comic popularity increases, maybe).  I do see the possibility of cafes oriented around artists or writers – any of us probably can find a local cafe that is at least patronized by people of a given artistic persuasion.  A tight, focused customer approach and powerful services would probably appeal to the right crowd.

Therefore I think the basic model of these cafes is a fine idea – its just that you'd have to implement that model in a way that would work:

  • You'd need enough basic services to bring people in and keep the interest of people who might not patronize you for your "skill-based services."
  • You'd need to target your specific market effectively – artists, writers, game developers, what have you.  This requires research, knowing people, good marketing, and the right services.
  • You'd need to have enough people of the right demographic to provide a customer base.  Right there this rules out a lot of cities, and leaves you with the college areas and megaregions.
  • You'd need active involvement – outreach, events, projects, etc.  Something to constantly get people interested and involved.  For instance I could see art contests, or books of poetry released by the patrons or what have you.

I'm tentatively enchanted with this idea – certainly I'd love to find a writer's cafe for, well, writing.  I think that this mangaka cafe model could be imported to America if done right.  It would require a lot of research, work, and market knowledge.

A few closing thoughts:

  • One of these "skill cafes" might work well if adjacent or sharing space with a relevant business, like a bookstore or art supply shop or comic store.
  • I'd like to see conventions try "temporary cafes" like this – they could be an interesting prototype for a potential business.
  • Places like this could work if you could throw "minicons" at them or other events – readings, lectures by the successful, lessons, book launches, etc.  You could turn your "skill based cafe" into a constant, low-level convention-like event.

So you have my analysis.

Which of you, my dear readers, are going to start this business?

Steven Savage