Business profile

Business Reimagined

The pandemic stalled business at his architecture firm, so he upcycled leftovers from past jobs into a leafy café
HOB Coffee. Picture: Meas Molika
HOB Coffee. Picture: Meas Molika

Kong Narith’s trio of business ideas made for an unlikely mashup: a coffee shop, plant store and architecture firm all under one roof.

The Battambang architect surely never envisioned selling 100 cups of coffee per day, or showing inquisitive customers new gardening techniques. But when the pandemic brought work at his design and landscaping business to a standstill, he was left with little choice: adapt or die.

Kong Narith sits at HOB Coffee. Picture: Meas Molika
Kong Narith sits at HOB Coffee. Picture: Meas Molika

“For the longest time​​ we had mountains of old construction materials laying around,” he said. “It was completely unorganized. All of that trash was just a shelter for mosquitoes.”

From old rubbish, HOB Coffee was born.

“I looked at all that stuff and thought, how is this possible?” he said. “We needed people to organize, to clean, to care for the plants. But if we turned it into a coffee shop, our problems were solved.”

The upcycled vibe is pervasive. Kong Narith constructed the cafe’s front counter with wire mesh and large stones. He covered the ground outdoors with gravel and put plants everywhere, giving the space a lush, jungle feel. Vines dangle from the roof. A huge, leafy tree defines the garden.

Customers come not just for the coffee, but also the gardening.

“People often ask about the plants,” Kong Narith said. “They want to know about gardening techniques, the best fertilizers, how to trim and care for plants. They ask for design ideas, too.”

A customer works inside HOB Coffee. Picture: Meas Molika
A customer works inside HOB Coffee. Picture: Meas Molika

The plants are all for sale, and the jungle ambience is a big attraction.

"I love all the plants," said So Kunthea, an online merchant, as she tapped away on a laptop. “Even without a fan, it's still windy. And there is not much traffic, so we can be outside where it's quiet and green."