Phil Han is the type of businessman who immediately says "stoked!" when asked how he's feeling about his new venture, Dooby's Coffee in Mount Vernon. He's the type of guy who quotes a Jay-Z lyric -- with a self-deprecating laugh -- when describing his entrepreneur style: "I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man." But then again, in the same conversation he'll talk enthusiastically about preparing for this moment for years, of liquor licenses (just obtained!) and working with the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association (they're so supportive!). He'll talk about learning to create income statements, of sustainability practices, of learning how HR works just as excitedly as he talks about how craft beers and wine will be available at his place. And specialty coffee! Pastries! Lunch items! There's still no official opening date, but Han said it will be sometime this spring. "Dooby's is a good idea," said Han, a Gilman grad who grew up in Lutherville-Timonium. "This is a place I would want to hang out. We're not trendy. We're not the next cupcake place. We're an items-you-already-consume place." As he smoothly discusses his business plan, you get the sense he's been at this for years. In a way, that's true. He attended Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., a private business school renowned for its entrepreneurship program. As freshmen, students already pitch business plans. Han's pitch involved manufacturing rubber message bracelets for various companies and nonprofits nationwide; this was at the height of the Livestrong craze. It was an immediate success, banking about $18,500 during a four-month period. At the time, Han said, it set a record for highest income business in school history for the course. A later stint with men's lifestyle company Thrillist honed his branding skills, and time working for his father's company, a wholesale food distributor for convenience stores, set up invaluable industry contacts. Everything has led to -- and helped create -- Dooby's. And, by the way, Dooby is Han's nickname, a shortened version of the Korean term for a croaking toad, which Han's mother said his crying sounded like as a baby. "You get spoiled by living in large foodie communities," Han said. "You come home and your options ... were committing to an awesome dinner at Woodberry Kitchen (but you're paying $50 a person) or your other option is the same dives in Fells and Canton. I just wanted a place where people can get a really awesome coffee and craft beer, where I'd want to have a conversation with my buddies and girlfriend." Dooby's has big shoes to fill. It's not only smack in the middle of competitive Charles Street, but also fills space once occupied by a trio of popular restaurants -- Indigma, Donna's and My Thai -- in a building devastated by a fire in December 2010. He hopes Dooby's will help inspire other young businesspeople to follow their ideas and set up shop in town. "My Dad, if there's a big thing he showed me, other than how to run a business, it's that there's so much more to life than just making money or creating a service," he said. "It's being able to leverage that to have a greater impact on your community."
Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun
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