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There are more than 300 bars and restaurants in Berlin-Mitte. How could one ever begin finding the right spot? I will try to make your bar-life a bit easier by introducing you to my favorite place in Berlin. Mein Haus am See is such a well-established café and bar at Rosenthaler Platz that it is difficult to believe it only opened in 2009! Mein Haus am See has successfully captured Berlin’s atmosphere and –in my eyes – represents this very unique city very well.

I was very lucky to be able to arrange an interview with the owners of the bar: Stephan and Claudia. Neither of them has ever studied business. Stephan studied politics and later discovered his passion for literature, after which he worked as a publisher. Opening a bar was Claudia’s idea. During our two hour talk they explained their business idea and revealed their recipe to success.

When you first started your business, how did you get people to know about you?

Claudia and Stephan: The first and most obvious resource we used was the internet. We launched our own website very early on.

Then, when we first started construction – which lasted nine months – we did not try to hide what was going on inside. Rather, we kept it public and transparent. We invited people who seemed interested inside, which provided a great opportunity to get to know people from the neighborhood. Over a cup of coffee, we talked about our business ideas and always expressed interest in people’s suggestions. This way, we could involve the neighborhood and our potential customers. Just two days before our grand opening, we covered our windows. There should be some suspense left after all!

How did you get the idea to name your bar “Mein Haus am See”?

Stephan: The name is actually based on personal experiences. We were looking for something that evoked a good feeling. Searching for the right title brought back memories of my youth. When I was still living in my hometown, my friends and I used to go on weekend-trips to this house right by the lake. Later on, I became aware of Peter Fox’s song and how well it describes the idea we want to convey.

“Mein Haus am See” portrays the homey and cozy atmosphere we provide, but does not reflect the bar’s actual location. Instead, the name, as well as the bar itself welcomes, invites and simply makes people feel good.

How were you able to finance your startup?

Stephan:Thanks to Claudia’s efforts and natural talent for business, we could avoid taking on a “Brauereikredit”, which would have tied us to one particular brewery. Instead, we were able to take out a regular loan.

Would you say that you have a busiest time of the year?

Claudia: Yes, that would definitely be the winter. The perfect weather for our business is cold yet sunny. Unfortunately, we do not have the room for an outside seating area. This also has its effect on our daily business. Even though we open at 9 am, most of our business is done in the evening and at night, and we remain open until our guests leave.

I remember the first time I went to Mein Haus am See. I was particularly struck by the interior design. What was the idea behind it and what image do you want to sell?

Claudia and Stephan: Our idea is to connect the street with the room and to bring the room outside.  We purposely maintained old placards on the windows that were there before construction. The drawings on the wall represent the famous street art scene in Berlin. We hope that, since we tried to connect the bar with its surroundings, Mein Haus am See seems rooted in in the neighborhood.

We also did not try to apply a well-structured design to the entire room. Instead, we played around around while working on it. Many ideas came to us spontaneously and, even more importantly, many different people influenced the final design.  We wanted to give it a very personal touch, so friends and family were part of the designing process.  Claudia’s sister, for example, mobilized her friends from university and together they created the drawings on the walls.

Stephan: The space had previously been used as a book store, which we wanted to incorporate with our furnishings. Maintaining the theme by installing a book shelf was especially important to me, since this was an opportunity for me to include my old profession as a publisher.

Another element we tried to play with is the contrast of rugged and noble. The bar counter, for example, is an extravagantly hand-manufactured piece of furniture unlike our couches in the 60s/70s style! I do not like to think of them as bulk garbage, I think of them instead as the “room’s style”.

Claudia and Stephan: We also conquered the challenge of limited space. The logic was to build up high – that is when the idea of an amphitheater came to our minds. So, we installed stairs, which support our idea of displaying the street as a stage!

So, Mein Haus am See is a theater! If you are interested in seeing how this play ends, be there when the curtains open again next Tuesday! The next and final act will be about customers, service, location and Mein Haus am See events!