The Bassment Café – A place to share your stories
The Bassment (地下事), which in the original Chinese characters translates as “stories from the basement”, was started in December 2018. Since then, it has stirred great interest and popularity among the deaf community in particular as well as the general public. The café is run by three brothers, Michael and Jason, a set of twins who were born deaf, and their younger brother, Oscar.
Both Michael and Jason were employed as café helpers and waiters at a deaf café after they finished their high school education. The deaf café was run by someone who did not have any disability but was committed to providing opportunities for the deaf to work with him. However, the experience working there somehow turned out to be negative, as Michael, Jason and their family felt that they were being taken advantage of and were not being given fair treatment as a staff member. Understanding that it would be difficult for them to find employment in the open market, and already constantly facing communication issues with others, the family decided to put together their resources to start a business of their own. Hence, their self-employing journey began.
Just like any other adventure, the beginning is often filled with obstacles and challenges. The brothers took over a restaurant and proceeded to change the name, outlook and theme. However, they decided to keep most of the workers and kitchen staff from the previous restaurant. Their act of kindness was returned with hostility. The workers disrespected them for not having experience in managing a restaurant, refusing to follow the brothers’ plans in changing the menu and being unsupportive of the implementation of a new system in various operational processes. This was a hard time for the three brothers. In addition to their troubles, business was not doing very well due to a lack of customers. Realising that they needed to start afresh, and that the The Bassment Café needed to have its own identity, they decided to let go of all the old workers. It was an uncertain but necessary and eventually rewarding decision.
The new beginning
Without any workers, the three brothers began running the whole café themselves. Oscar, the youngest brother, managed the café’s operation and communication needs. Jason was the main chef, cooking and developing new recipes in the kitchen, while Michael took care of the beverage bar and the counter.
One of the unique features of the café is that it has two very distinct feels combined into one place. The moment you step in, a friendly and welcoming atmosphere embraces you as the soothing colour of the walls promise to freshen your day. White and green, they give a sense of relaxation as you enjoy a good conversation with friends. And if you descend the stairs into the basement, a contrasting atmosphere of a rustic, original, yet cosy area, surrounds you. Furnished with a simple stage, musical instruments and basic audio facilities, this was where Michael, Jason and a group of their deaf friends used to jam and made music together (hence the name, The Bassment). Their dreams are to open this place for anyone who wants to share their life stories with others, may it be through music, songs, or any form of art. At the entrance to the basement, there is a sign saying “We have beer, do you have stories?”.
The Bassment also holds private events in the basement, such as birthday or engagement parties, company dinners, and band performances, catering for small groups up to 100 people.
As the Café is usually very busy over the weekends, they hire friends from the deaf community as part-time waiters and helpers, giving job opportunities for the disabled group. Yet, the brothers do not want the café to simply become a deaf café where people come to give support out of good will or charity. Instead, they are working hard for it to become a café where customers come in for their delicious food, friendly staff, excellent services, and most of all, a place for people to share and exchange life stories.