Henry Hoi once racked up 1 million frequent flier miles each year, traveling to and from the South Pacific for his corporate Silicon Valley job.
Now Hoi, 45, is staying home and running his newest venture: Kopitiam Cafe, a coffee shop based on those he enjoyed in Singapore and Malaysia.
“Whenever I went to Singapore I’d go to a Kopitiam, and you can’t get the food here,” said Hoi, of Milpitas.
The new Kopitiam coffee shop in Seasons Marketplace shopping center offers American favorites like lattes, frappes and popcorn chicken. But it also serves up light curry dishes with toasted anchovies and peanuts; toasted bread with Kaya, a sweet, custard-style spread; and Thai thurek, a hot, sugary tea made with condensed milk.
The shop also offers free wifi, tables for those getting work done and benches and chairs for those wanting to stay and talk.
Hoi partnered with Toca Chong, a friend he made in Singapore who ran a franchise of Kopitaims there — similar to overseeing a number of Starbucks in California. Chong prepares the food while Hoi oversees the business side of the shop.
“Over here it’s exciting, introducing authentic food to the locals,” Chong said. He especially enjoys “seeing people who know it come back.”
Kopitiam makes most of its food on site, and buys its bread fresh from a Fremont bakery, Hoi said. The store is open late — until 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Hoi said he hopes to draw both high school and college kids to study and everyone else for coffee and conversation.
“I want to have a nice place to meet the neighbors, meet friends,” Hoi said. “Hopefully when I’m 60 I’ll know the names of everyone who walks in the door.”
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