Is Pragtique your first shared project? Who came up with the idea and how long did it take to bring it to life?
Yes, it is. I first had this thought a few years ago but we became serious about it in late 2014 and started to realise it some time in February last year.
 
Didn’t you worry that ‘souvenirs’ are being discredited by the floods of distasteful shops that offer non-authentic souvenirs?
That was a challenge that motivated us to found our brand. We want to rehabilitate the reputation of souvenirs and give dignity back to them by creating imaginative, graceful, and affordable keepsakes that will make people happy and will remind them of Prague. Prague is a beautiful city and deserves to be represented by beautiful souvenirs.
 
Do you cooperate with Czech artists only? How do you select them?
We work mostly with Czech artists and the selection process is diverse. All of us work in creative industries – in visual arts, film, design, advertisement, etc. We are surrounded by artists and we enjoy meeting new ones, too. It is an ongoing process and we keep our eyes peeled. If anybody interests us, then we’ll approach them about a collaboration on the theme of Prague. Today, artists also approach us.
 
What is the proportion of custom-made objects for your shop? Do you plan new collections?
Everything in our shop is custom-made, apart from several books and magazines that we also offer alongside our keepsakes. We certainly do plan new collections; it keeps our adrenalin levels high.
 
Is it only foreigners who visit Pragtique or is your shop also popular with local people?
Both. We are very happy not to have a shop for tourists only but also for the locals who buy presents for their friends and family here.
 
Do you bring souvenirs from your travels? What is your favourite?
Of course we do. The thing we are focused on is whether the product is made locally. We don’t like souvenirs made, for example, in China just because they carry a name of the place we visited.
 
(Lenka Hluchá, co-owner of Pragtique)

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How is the concept of an espresso bar different from that of a classic café?
I don't know the exact definition of an espresso bar, the original Italian concept is definitely a bit different, judging from what London or Japanese espresso bars look like. In general, we speak about over-the-counter sale and hardly any waiting on tables. People grab coffee to go or drink it at the bar so the seating possibilities are kept to a minimum. The idea is coffee in one hand, snack in the other and see you tomorrow. It's hard to say where to draw the line, though, and where a café ends and an espresso bar begins.

You've been running a very successful café called Café Lounge for some years now. Why did you decide to approach EMA espresso bar so differently?
The funniest thing is that it was all totally unplanned - our family's occupation is mostly accommodation and renting - Café Lounge started as a sort of a lobby bar for guests of our Hunger Wall residence, rather than a café. We'd had no ambition whatsoever to go into the gastronomic business. Gradually, however, other people had found their way in, I became interested in coffee and EMA is the outcome of that. As to the 'different approach' - the style of Lounge is art nouveau as is the building itself. We tried to make it look as a living room combined with a Viennese café from the period of the First Republic. My mom was in charge of the interior and we have just 'provided the final touch'. I like the space a lot but the style of art nouveau is not so close to my heart. In the meantime, we travelled a lot to find and taste good coffee and with my colleague Karolína we started looking for a space for a new project. We wanted to try the concept of coffee to go and at the same time give more creative space to our baristas and make the running of the kitchen and dessert bakery at Café Lounge more efficient. It took us about a year to come across a possibility to rent a great non-residential space from The Academy of Sciences. It was in a horrendous condition but we knew it was the one. It is in a functionalist building that used to be a department store named Ferra. It fit our concept perfectly - having a simple and yet fully effective bar at a busy spot where coffee is the top priority and the rest would follow. We drew inspiration from cafés that we had seen abroad.

EMA does not only stand out because of its excellent coffee but also because of its stylish interior. How did you go about choosing the architects and what was your idea of the whole process?
We had quite a clear idea of what the place should look like but at the same time we felt that we wanted to co-operate with architects because I think that the traces of a skilled architect's head/hand can be spotted at first glance. We had a mini competition where we contacted 3 architects/studios and asked them to put forward their proposals. The winning pair was a café owner and former fashion designer Lucie Trnková (I Need Coffee!) in collaboration with Pavel Griz (Molo Architects). Their proposal was exactly what we had imagined. EMA, as you see it today, is not much different from what it had looked like in the proposal and more importantly we met two awesome people.

EMA has quickly gained a devoted customer base. How would you characterize it?
The reason we chose this location was because of the construction of Florentinum and good public transport connectivity - metro and trams. Our aim was to build customer base among businessmen but at the same time we were hoping to appeal to others who enjoy a good cup of coffee. To be honest, we did not expect it to become such a hit, at least not before the opening of Florentinum. Regrettably, I don't get to spend much time in EMA so I may not be the best person to comment on the regulars. In any case, I've noticed that the range of customers is quite wide which is great. With a bit of luck and a slightly addictive product the number of regulars will hopefully be increasing.

We assume that coffee is your passion. Are you involved in the choice of coffee sold in your cafés?
I love coffee and drink it a lot and I enjoy travelling to discover new tastes but I am not an expert and much less a barista. I take trips to roasting houses and try to find new suppliers. Our baristas do the same and they are the ones in touch with the customers and are constantly on the lookout for coffee for their competitions and have more opportunities for comparison. My task is to create conditions that would allow the business to run effectively, ideally with the baristas in charge. EMA runs on its own to a large extent – I don’t assist with orders and choices. Also, the rotation of roasting houses and types of coffee is quite frequent so they give me something to taste from time to time but I don’t have the capacity to try everything. I can try more kinds of coffee in Café Lounge where I spend more time but, same as with EMA, the orders and choices are in the competences of head barista. We have chosen a number of roasting houses that we enjoy working with so we avoid burning our fingers, unless, of course, they burn the coffee. ;)

Do you have a favourite café in Prague or abroad that has inspired you?
My favourite are Můj šálek kávy and I Need Coffee! but I have to admit I don’t go to many more cafés in Prague as I have quite a busy schedule and when time allows it I prefer to go out of Prague with my family. London has probably been the greatest source of inspiration for EMA. My brother lives there and at one point I used to spend quite some time there. The list would be a bit longer for London but just to name a few, I enjoy Caravan at King’s Cross, Ozone Coffee Roasters, Workshop Coffee cafés, Taylor St Baristas and Fernandez & Wells. Online visits to cafés have also proven very inspiring.

(Kamil Skrbek, EMA espresso bar owner)


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Spud. is an unconventional Prague city guide, that highlights its interesting spots and local businesses that are really worth visiting. With a Polaroid camera, we’re mapping four different areas: food and drinks, shops, workplaces of creative people and architecture. Spud. is focused on fresh places with unique atmosphere, cafés with the best coffee, shops with the finest goods, workshops and studios of the most skilled designers and architectural attractions with the greatest charm. Spud. is also mainly about people, who stand behind these projects. Without their invention and courage to fulfill their dreams Prague would be a much poorer place. That’s why we’re so grateful to all of them!
 
Tereza a Michal
info@spud.cz / 728 764 380



 
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