Vic comes from Tainan. His cafe and bagel house, Mon Ga, serves light meals with manga.
Why are you here in Tainan?
I grew up in Tainan. I spent 7 years away from the city to study in Taoyuan, the came back for my military service. I decided to stay in Tainan after fulfilling my obligation.
Do you like Tainan?
I like Tainan very much. Before I went to university, my daily life was nothing but the journey between home and school and I had little chance to take a look at the city. The days in Taoyuan, I started to have some ideas about Tainan. After serving the army, I decided to stay and open a business. I like Tainan’s geographical location as a coastal city and I really enjoy spending time by the sea. The tempo of life is slow but it is not boring. I like the aged feel of the city, as well as the looks of the street corners. I enjoy the overall atmosphere and feel the city’s frequency to be in sync with mine.
What would you suggest to people visiting Tainan that they should do here? Where should they visit?
Riding bike around Tainan. The food is fantastic, but you should try going beyond the guidebook and ask local people for advices. Guanxi Pintai is very popular now, so I don’t go there that often, I prefer going to Yuguang Island over it. On the island’s beach there’s a bamboo shed built by some foreigners, and the spot is quickly becoming a focal point for Westerners on weekends. They seem to know Tainan better than us locals!
Perhaps they all like sunbathing by the sea!
Why a bagel house and cafe but not others?
Well, the original plan was to open a manga-themed restaurant but I couldn’t find a space large enough for it. So I decided to focus more on the food itself, for which I have more confidence on, and have manga play a supporting role in my cafe. We are selling quite a lot more than just bagels, and our hot dogs are just as delicious. The story of a bagel house begun when some students living upstairs posted a blog on the BBS, which referred us to be “the bagel house downstairs.” That’s why we are famous for bagel. We actually have a wide selection, and we keep experimenting on new items like the very latest Chicken Quesadilla in Mexican Style. For myself, only customers’ acceptance and appreciation matters.
But then, what’s the relationship between the cafe and the manga ONE PIECE?
I enjoy reading manga, a lot. And that’s why I wanted to have a shop combine food and comics. But as you see, the manga store business is dying and I was lucky for not putting my money into one. I have many favorites, but the story of ONE PIECE is one I found myself attached to. Many of my customers are fans of ONE PIECE, and they brought with them their collectables to share with the others. I do not own everything in the leftmost shelf, and many items are on loan from my customers. A collection has no value when it is not shown to anyone else, so it’s better to share and create interactions with others. Over time we are becoming a ONE PIECE-themed cafe.
I remember that your cafe was on fire. What’s your thought at that time?
It was in 2012. My mind went completely blank right after it and I even considered closing business. But I knew I am better off with my cafe. I don’t fit well in an office; even the idea of switching on my computer to write a résumé frustrates me. Thanks to the support from my friends and the nice landlord, I gathered my courage to continue. It was also an opportunity for me, as I have always wanted to renovate our space but couldn’t find the time to realize it. In the end, we reopened after having a redesign of the interiors.
What are the ups and downs of opening a business that you would share with the readers?
I am lucky to have more ups than downs. We went into a bit of a trough two or three years into the business from the competition of burger joints that popped up around us. Most of our customers went off to try something new, and we did not make as much sales as we want. But knowing my market segment and being experienced with cost control, I was confident that my customers would eventually come back. With persistence, it’s been eight years since we’ve opened.
What are your next plans for the cafe?
My friends always joked about me being lazy, as I am not really motivated to change unless something breaks. I think my advantage is that I’m good at dealing with any situation that comes up, like in the case with the fire I was briefly at loss of what to do, I quickly gathered myself to turn it into an opportunity to renovate. I have a bartender license, and I have thought about offering cocktail. But if it is going to extend my working hours, it will be against my healthy living principles.
So, let’s wait and see.
So, how do you normally spend your day?
It’s a routine of work and exercises. Back in the beginning we had no break in the afternoon, and during the time when we had little customers it was tiring and depressive. So I hired someone to take this shift and I began a ritual of exercising using the time. I might go swimming, riding a bicycle or working out in a gym. The change had a huge effect on me.
I think whatever job you do, you always need something else to change your mood.
I became healthier, happier and more efficient at work. Later I decided we should have an official break in the afternoon, and I could use the time to see a movie, exercise or meet a friend. Now I never feel tired or bored with my work.
What are your personal goals with MonGa?
I guess there’s three of them. First, I need to earn money to live, perhaps saving a little to visit other countries once in a while. on running a very profitable business, as I don’t want feel lost and forget the taste of living. Second, I want to make more friends. I enjoy making new friends, and most of my friends here in Tainan were my customers. Lastly, I love sharing and I am happy to share my favorite manga with everyone.
How would you describe yourself?
(There were some friends of him here.) Friends said: Politely speaking, Vic looks cool on the outside but can be warm when you get to know him better. But frankly, he is just dumb, a wacky kind of dumb.”
Well, I was not like that before. I did quite well in my studies and ended up in the department of architecture to the expectation of my family. But the days in the university was a stimulant that evoked a lot of retrospective thinking on my future. When I was in my senior year, I realized that a designer or an architect is not what I really want. Therefore, I decided to transfer to another major. I like traveling and learning about other cultures so I picked the English department. That began another crazy story in my life.
The decision to transfer to the English department was the moment of enlightenment in my life.
I am usually quite casual when I am with my friends, perhaps even crazy. But when I have to describe myself, I would say that I am one who knows what I want.
Mon Ga Bagel Facebook
Tainan, Taiwan 701
Tel:+886 6 276 1856
週一～週六 10:00 - 14:00, 17:00 - 21:00