SYLF Exclusive | Lenore’s 10 Years
SYLF Exclusive interview with Lenore’s founder, Michael Sun
Michael, a Jilin native has been leading Shenyang’s leisure cafe and bar scene for the past decade.
We took an hour out of Michael’s busy and hectic schedule in between many friends waiting for him at his Lenore’s secret garden, Shenyang most attracted spot, as we talk about his love, the franchise, as he remainest all the opening dates perfectly…
In 2008, Michael had given up the opportunity to immigrate to Canada, a friend has introduced him to open up a new bar in Harbin. At that time, he wanted to register the bar after his own name, Michael, and it was already taken, so there Michael named the bar Lenore’s, his beloved wife’s name.
The Harbin Lenore’s did not pan out as the way he wanted, as he made a move to Shenyang, the named followed him as he opened his first location at Shu Li Ting in 2010. This venture was closed within five months because it was too noisy, too many people, and the complaints followed. “There wasn’t even a street light when we open our first location, we just did it right then and there,” said Michael.
With the closing of the second Lenore’s, comes to the rise of the infamous BBH, “bar behind Heidi’s” was given to Lenore’s consulate location. It was the very first late night bar, almost opened for 24hrs in the beginning. “We’ve had so many guests, the place was full almost every day, we were too tired so we had to make the last call at 5 am” that year Michael was 24, 2010.
Tragic happen just one year of success of BBH, Michael’s wife, Lenore has left this world due to cancer in 2011. The loss of his wife took a toll on Michael, as his business continues to grow, and more drinks to ease his sorrow.
Michaels had turned to his thoughts into strength and became more focused on his franchise. On August 10, 2012, Lenore’s Cafe House on Sanjing Jie 9 Wei Lu, was born and again gained local popularity. It was the first cafe on what later became Shenyang’s cafe street, all cafe owners around Shenyang now were his customers and staff. “the idea was to have an artistic filled hole in the wall, something different from the big cafes.” Michael said.
Two more years later, Michael was particularity interested in an old district, near Zhongshan square. There wasn’t any bars or even shop in this area in 2014. An old man had lived in the current secret garden location, and has refused to rent out his space to anyone, until Michael came and demonstrated his character, the old man agreed to Michael that he can have the space, however, please keep the garden so the old man can come back and plant more grape vines, he agreed.
This ancient build was built by the Japanese and is used as command house, the backyard was trash pit, Michael personally did the cleaning, and renovated to what it is now, a work of art. He has found two Japanese soldier katanas during the renovation and used most of these wood scrap material into furniture. Finally, on January 21, 2014, the fourth location on Zhongshan road was open for business, the rest is history. ,
In 2016, the Wu ai street location, Lenore’s memory opened as a keepsake and in memory of Michael late wife. Is a place where all photos treasures are kept while helping a friend to open the business.
2017 Zhangshi Lenore’s was open, Michael now fully engaged in developing Shenyang border areas with some very interested investors. Later this year the Shenbei home party will soon be open.
SYLF: What is the concept of Lenore’s?
Michael: Is about cultural art on a dive bar budget, is not too costly for anyone to come and have a great time. Is definitely not a place to show off like the local bar industry, selling high price packages or membership cars. Is all about the customer experience, talking with them, focus on conversations, providing an open living room for people to share all feelings, a place to take leisure. I have to be honest, it is a self-fulling project, I just did what I liked, and it turned out successful. The point of was to foster the spirit of leisure experience, to let people experience what the society has now, and to open up for all things.
SYLF: What do you see in the future of the bar industry?
Michael: People are growing in the city, and there will be more and more bars and cafes. However, is very competitive, and many shops will not make it, the younger generation of shop owners need to adapt faster. There were some drastic changes from 2010 – 2014, and in 2015 bar industry beacon downward. Last year, it seemed like an economic worsen, we were under a lot of pressure, however, business is business, we need to strive on service level and focus on client experience, winning the marketing by adopting.
SYLF: What is your success?
Michael: I tend to help people in the same industry by offering sponsorship, consultancy, vendors recommendations, by helping others, I made a lot of friends. Another aspect was innovating special themed parties, getting involved in the trends such as electronic music, festivals, Lenore is always leading the trends.
SYLF: Lenore’s has a large expat community, why is that?
Michael: Foreigners loves Lenore because is home to many of them, they begin to like the city by attending one of the parties here. For example, BMW has almost all of their parties here. Lenore’s, however, is not a foreign brand, is a Chinese brand, and not like other places that trap foreigners, is just a very relaxed environment.
SYLF: What is Shenyang to you now?
Michael: Shenyang has given me a home, a house, a car, and many people know me and Lenore’s. Is the feeling of success that they all love us and what we represent.
SYLF: What is your most memorable event at Lenore’s
Michael: There was a Chinese boy, and a foreign girl, who have met here, and the second time they came they were dating, and the next time we saw them they were married, and the following time, they brought their kids. They now live in Australia and they would come back to Lenore’s every once a while…
Photos Credits: Lenore’s, the web, and The One