Dali: That's where it all begins


 Sunshine Cafe
Here is the original Sunshine Cafe in Dali, Yunnan Province, China, where my son, Kris, started his career as a restaurateur.
 Salvador's Coffee House, DaliHere is the outside of the original Salvador's Coffee House in Dali. This location no longer exists.
Above and below are the interior views of the first Salvador's, in Dali. This restaurant has been closed for three years and now is located in Kunming.
 Salvador's Coffee House 2

Well, it all started in Dali, my interest in China.

Actually, it all started when my son, Kris, decided to study martial arts in China, and heard about a martial arts training site called Wu Wei Si, near Dali, in China.

He decided to save his money and travel there to study martial arts at this hidden-away temple in Yunnan Province, China, near Dali. He saved enough to stay for six months, but as fortune would have it, he became a restaurateur instead.

He studied at the temple during the week, and on the weekends, Kris would go into town, into Dali, and found the Sunshine Cafe, where he became friends with the girls who worked there. He helped them out with painting the walls and other miscellaneous jobs, and as I remember the story, the young woman who was managing the cafe wanted to go away to school, thus leaving an opening at the cafe.

When the owner stopped by and saw Kris speaking with the foreigners in English and perhaps leading them to buy a little more drink, a little more food, he saw dollar signs, and decided to offer Kris the management job.

Mind you, Kris had been in China only a few months, barely spoke the language, and had no restaurant experience. Nevertheless, he accepted the job, and with the constant help of his employees, was successful in this exotic venture.

He changed the menu, offering Western-style food and teaching the girls how to cook it. He updated the decor a bit and began to teach the girls English; he encouraged them to smile and interact with the customers rather than hiding in the shadows.

After his two-year stint at Sunshine, Kris and a friend, Colin Flahive, opened Salvador's Coffee House (Salvador's, in Dali -- get it?), around the corner. They purchased an expensive coffee machine from Italy, and offered gourmet ice cream and brownies, as well.

Salvador's became a favorite hangout for young tourists, with a Starbuck's-type coffee menu and an ultra mellow/cool atmosphere.

Kris and his friend Colin put an enormous amount of work into their new venture, but alas, Dali was in the midst of expansion ... or at least their landlord was, and Salvador's and other enterprises on that street were torn down to make room for their landlord's other business ventures.

But Salvador's would rise again in Yunnan Province, in the capital city, Kunming, where it is thriving. At the new Salvador's Coffee House in Kunming, they turn away visitors every day.