Nick’s determination and competitive spirit flourished. He prided himself in caring for his dogs in a humane manner and relying on hard work and good planning to lead his dogs to victory. His kennel finished fifth among sixteen kennels and he was offered a head trainer position at a newly opened track in the Mexican border town of Harlingen, Texas. This Made him the youngest licensed trainer in the state of Texas.
It was an article he read in a magazine while waiting in a dentist’s office that finally stirred him to entrepreneurial action. The article spotlighted the recent coffeehouse boom in the service industry. The nearly one thousand percent markup on a simple cup of coffee appealed to Nick’s financial aspirations. Before long he and his wife charged up his MasterCard to its $25,000 limit and opened the doors of The Raven and the Sparrow Gourmet Cafe back in Corpus Christi.
The 800 square foot converted house located just two blocks from a large hospital in Corpus Christi was warmly received. The location that Nick had selected was ideally situated on a corner that was busy day and night with hospital staff and visitors. In addition to offering gourmet coffee, tea and pastries in the morning, The Raven and the Sparrow offered sandwiches and gourmet lunch items to keep the business bustling all day. It soon became a trendy spot for college students and other young adults to get together with friends. To foster this aspect of the business, Nick brought in art exhibits, poetry readings and folk music to provide an environment prime for his late afternoon and early evening target market. As with any fickle, trend-based market, business began to taper off after the novelty passed. Nick was challenged with the task of stimulating the slowing business before the end of his first year.
Few people had personal computers in 1994 and those who did often had no idea how to get on the Internet. Still interested in technology, Nick brought a couple of computers into the coffeehouse and worked out a trade agreement with a local ISP that allowed him to offer Internet access to his customers at no charge. This put The Raven and the Sparrow in the ranks of the first 25 Internet cafés in the world and made it one of the first places in South Texas – along with the public library – to provide free Internet access to the public. This drew quite a crowd and brought a new, tech-minded segment into the mix of people who frequented the Raven and the Sparrow. Soon business people were stopping in to check their email as they sipped their cappuccino and and the beatnik crowd in the evenings were surfing the Net in groups and spending more time in the shop. Of course, this led to increased sales!