98. I Am on The Train, I Am Going To Milan…
I’m pretty relaxed so I will tell you the story of the Café Giacosa…
About ten years ago, a real estate agent asks me if I am interested in having a shop in Florence, my hometown! The shop is the legendary Café Giacosa, a magical corner of Via de’ Tornabuoni and Via Della Spada. Caffè Giacosa is one of the early coffee houses dating back to the early twentieth century. Old dark walnut furniture, an interior that exudes the true flavor of the old Florence! The excellent pastry is produced in their own patisserie situated on the first floor.
I’m really surprised that this historic establishment is closing down its activities. I speak with the owner to find out the real reason why he is closing and he tells me that the owner of the shop in the prestigious building Viviani della Robbia, an old person from Prato without scruple and with no interest in what this tradition means to Florence, has only one goal – to get more money from the rental of the premises! At the expiration of the lease he is tripling the rent. This is bringing it to a figure untenable for a Coffee house!
I am very indecisive. As a good Florentine I am excited at the prospect of securing that corner but something puts the brakes on my decision. After few days I get another phone call from the estate agent who solicits my decision since Giorgio Armani is also interested in that space. I have one day to decide!
Only a fashion house can support a rent so high! OK I’LL TAKE IT! I never expect such a strong reaction from my fellow Florentines… It is not the first time that such a thing has happened… other famous coffee houses have closed, leaving room for other activities! The Bottegone of Piazza Duomo, the Gambrinus, the Bruzzichelli. The charm of the coffee houses that were part of the history of Florence can now only be admired in the old yellowing photos of the Alinari photographic archives!
I find the Florentines and the local newspapers against me, accusing me of not loving my Florence! Had Giorgio Armani, who is not from Florence, taken this corner all this talk would not have happened. The Florentines are by nature xenophiles, with different standards for people from elsewhere! It is so bad that I even begin to fear for my children going to school.
I am in New York and my assistant calls me to tell me that the Mayor of Florence is anxious to talk to me. I am sure of the subject. I can imagine why the mayor wants to talk to me! I anticipate him. Here is a crisis with an opportunity. I call my manager and ask him to inquire if the small shop adjacent to the one I have taken for the boutique is for sale. I want to buy it at any price. I want to keep alive the historic “Caffe Giacosa”. I do not want to lay off the 14 people employed in the patisserie and I want to walk tall in my city!
I pay too much for the small shop on Via Della Spada but I am able to join the two places together. I decorate the new Caffe Giacosa with old wood and a bit of Cavalli fashion… CAFFE GIACOSA by Roberto Cavalli achieves new heights!
I LOVE YOU