MI CASA ES TU CASA
They say "Mi casa es tu casa" for a reason... you have to believe it when you say it and say it from the heart.
With 15 years experience working in the bar industry I hav
e learnt that charisma and service are equally as important as making great flavor combinations. Someone can be the best cocktail technician in the world but if they don’t have the charm and skill to give top-notch service they are definitely not delivering the best this industry has to offer. That’s the big difference between a mixologist and a bartender; a really good bartender has to have both qualities. In my places with the teams I work with that's when the concept of "Mi Casa Es Tu Casa" really begins.
I owe a great deal to the World Class program. I won 1st place in the Puerto Rico competition back in 2011 and got the opportunity to travel to India for the Global Finals and in New Delhi my perspective on what a bartender was changed completely. I learned new techniques and bartending styles but also met many peers with whom I still have a friendship. I came back to Puerto Rico with invaluable knowledge to share with my industry colleagues.
My business partner and friend Leslie Cofresí won 1st place in the World Class Puerto Rico Competition two years later in 2013. It was when he came back to Puerto Rico from Brazil after attending the global competition that we decided to start a new venture together. The World Class program changed us both and helped forge our partnership.
We started looking for a perfect space to create our “dream bar” and that’s when we met Pablo Rodriguez, who had rented the space we needed. Pablo comes from the music and bar industry and it made sense to partner up with him to develop what Leslie and I had in mind.
Based on everything we had learned working alongside international bartenders and through the World Class program we wanted to create the first bar with a truly contemporary cocktail program in Puerto Rico with amazing drinks, great food and excellent music at an accessible price. All with a dedication to personal service, and that combination had never been offered anywhere in the country.
From day one when we started La Factoría as a company we would never have imagined that it was going to the success that it is today. We started with one small bar, working day and night, giving the best of ourselves, not just in cocktails but also in our service and music. La Factoría organically outgrew its starting point of being one small bar, today it has bloomed into four different bars with different styles, ambiences, music, and cocktails. La Factoría became ‘‘Mi Casa’’ and because of that we make sure we extend the welcome to friends, colleagues and every guest in the same way. Everyone is treated the same: LIKE FAMILY.
I've realized that each space has got it's own personality. For example: La Factoría wouldn't be possible in other spaces because our building has its own magic and history. It’s a unique place; before we moved in it was called Hijos de Borinquén. It was an old bohemian nightspot and it had this crazy eclectic atmosphere. It was iconic in San Juan and we tried hard to keep the vibe but bring our own drink ideas and service culture. With the legacy of the building and the richness of our new ideas we knew that spot was meant for La Factoría! I strongly believe that every building, space or bar has its own character. If you want to open a new bar or restaurant, you need to find the right place and then let the space tell you what you can create in it. You need to listen and respond.
Our second project after La Factoria was exactly that. As soon as we saw the space for some reason it gave us the vibe of an Airstream Bar. We worked on the concept of a "bar on wheels" and CANECA Coctelería Movil was born. Caneca’s menu concept is all about punch, sodas, carbonated cocktails and more. Again we run it like it's our home... Every guest gets the best of us.
For example: American, Japanese and Europeans all have their own techniques and a style of service, we also have ours. We are all about expressing that Latin instinct for hospitality and service. It’s service that we can describe as “the Caribbean way” with warmth and a true generosity of spirit. We look for that in every member of staff that we hire and continually underline that sensibility with our trainings.
Last but not least, we recently opened Jungle Bird. Jungle Bird is a Tropical Leisure Cocktail Bar and we are definitely getting a lot more playful when it comes to drinks. When we first walked in the door we felt the tropical vibes right away but we didn't want to create a traditional Tiki bar. So we researched for many months and ended up with this idea that some may call it "Neo-Tiki". For this last two projects we partnered up with Jose “Chuck” Rivera, a good friend and bartender who had recently moved back to PR from Washington DC.
Neo-Tiki is a re-interpretation of the Tiki concept but with new elements. We took Puerto Rican flora and fauna, the indigenous logos and other things and made a “blend” with the original concept to create a “not so Tiki” but Tropical Puerto Rican bar “. In terms of design we have taken some of the traditional Polynesian elements but interpreted them in a new way such as our neon logo. So it's a modern Puerto Rican take on the classic formula of Tiki.
For us, our staff is the most important thing and by our definition they are family. Also our staff is not treated as employees, yes they are, but just like at the other bars we treat each other as family members. This helps to create a better experience. Is not just "work", it' also fun... Then this is transferred to our friends on other side of the bar "our guests".
We build a sense of family in our teams by letting everyone know they are part of what makes our bar special. Each of them is handpicked because of their talent, style, and uniqueness. They understand they're paired with their workmates to bring out the best in each other. This ways they learn to rely on each other and work as a team.
After 4 years of opening La Factoria and recently opening Jungle Bird and Caceca now we will continue exploring within our industry. We will be taking our brands into events and will focus on keeping our service and cocktails as good as they have been since day one. That’s the key… to always maintain ‘’Tu Casa” as if it was brand new, just like the first day we started serving but with a lot more experience.