(Fortune Small Business) –At Samovar Tea Lounge, a chain of three teahouses in San Francisco, you’ll find no wireless Internet or bulletin board littered with local news and advertisements.
“The goal is to create relationships with customers where they become guests — or friends,” says CEO Jesse Jacobs, a dot-com veteran who opened the first Samovar, in the Castro/Mission district during the 2001 tech crash. “Our design reflects that. We try to provide a cocoon from the outside world, so we need more than just a few chairs and a Formica countertop.”
Seating space at the teahouse’s bamboo tables is intentionally tight. Jacobs, who built his shops without consulting professional designers, says the setup encourages patrons to mingle and try menu items that beckon from neighbors’ plates.
“It’s easy to overhear conversations, but that’s good,” says copywriter Paul Tootalian, 42, a regular customer. “There’s a real community feel.”