From pedicab to balut: Meet Pinoy coffee shop owner in Ireland

Roderick Garcia, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Mar 02 2019 07:22 PM

CORK, Ireland – Jeffrey Velasco comes from humble beginnings. Originally from Tondo in Manila, Velasco managed to carve a niche in Ireland’s coffee industry.

“Yung humble beginning nagsimula ako sa pagiging pedicab driver sa Tondo. At the same time, sa gabi nagtitinda ako ng balut,” Velasco recalled.

He later worked as an electronics technician in Taiwan for several years. But the entrepreneurial spirit within him burned and he ended up starting a billiards and bar place, as well as an internet café upon coming back home at the end his work contract in Taiwan.

The lure of a better life led him once again abroad, this time in Ireland in 2006. With the support of his wife who is a nurse, his dream slowly came to fruition.

In Ireland, Velasco worked as a coffee barista in the morning and a staff in a bed and breakfast place during the night.

The training proved to be valuable in the industry that he is in and is passionate about.

In 2013, and with the encouragement of his former employer, Velasco took a leap of faith and purchased a failing coffee shop business in a populated part of Cork.

Being a handyman himself, he began to personally convert the place into his vision of a personal, friendly and homey-type of space where each customer will have a family feel.

He was hands-on in everything from carpentry to plumbing, purchasing materials, doing maintenance work, and even hiring employees for the coffee shop business he named Cuppacity Coffee & Bagels.

The shop became an instant hit among Irish customers, luring in both the young and old. Despite the presence of bigger coffee chains, he managed to stay afloat and slowly built his customer base.

“Look around, it’s colorful, friendly, staff are very friendly and the customers, I know most of them because I’m in here nearly every day, it’s like family,” said Martin Keating, a regular customer.

Another loyal patron, Ann Janssen, said the shop has “good atmosphere”.
 
“I enjoyed the food it’s very good, the staff are very friendly, and I get on great with Jeff and Beth,” she said.

Janssen said it becomes her routine to visit Cuppacity four times a week.

Two years after opening his coffee shop, Velasco opened his second branch, this time at the heart of Cork City where the competition is fiercer. With the experience and right formula from his first shop, Velasco once again succeeded.

One proof was the shop’s Five Star Excellent Awardee status from TripAdvisor for three consecutive years now.

Aside from Filipinos, he also has under his employ Irish, Polish, Romanian, Lithuanina, Malaysian, and Brazilian workers.

Velasco is busy with the opening of a third shop, this time with a different name.

“Ang maipapayo ko sa kanila is kung may pagkakataon, grab all the opportunity, kasi, hindi na ‘yan kakatok pa sa susunod,” he said.