Can retail-adjacent hospitality help enliven less popular commercial areas?
The placement of Blue Bottle Coffee’s Kobe Hankyu café on the ground floor of a department store creates a more holistic retail experience.
Keji Ashizawa Design transformed a section of the ground floor of the Kobe Hankyu Department Store in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, into the Blue Bottle Coffee Kobe Hankyu Café. The practice wanted to connect the space – which faces a back alley and was previously used for deliveries – with the livelihood of the department store and surrounding retail street. The goal of the space is to help transform the image of the street and enhance the area’s hospitality offerings. Five large display windows from the department store surround the café area. They were treated as a point of connection with the surrounding city and street instead of displays. To facilitate this engagement, Keji Ashizawa Design installed a take-out counter facing the street from the windows. Wood sourced from the Kobe Prefecture was used to build custom-designed furniture. Blue textiles, greige leather, and yellow paint details appear continuously, providing material and colour contrast with the space’s concrete floor.
The synergy of retail and hospitality is tried and true because of their symbiotic relationship. In the case of Blue Bottle Coffee Kobe Hankyu Café, less desirable space in a busy central commercial area has been maximized to improve the customer experience and expands opportunities for making revenue. The location’s position towards an alley makes it a less ideal spot for a retailer but by redirecting hungry and thirsty shoppers to a space for rest it organically generates foot traffic to one of the district’s less-visited areas. The use of neutral, natural materials further solidifies the venue as a site for respite that can incidentally generate additional revenue streams, retain shoppers’ attention, and enliven the slower commercial path.