Interview

Introduction: Christine Cizmaş is my name, from Timișoara, my age... young; I deal with Auăleu Theater and Scârț Loc Lejer, along with Ovidiu Mihăiţă and all my other colleagues who are not here right now... I speak for them all... And the rest comes from you.... Oh, and I am an actress.

Question: If you could tell us how the business stared, where did you get the idea to open this pub from?
Answer: This place opened not necessarily because we wanted badly to have a coffee-shop... The fact that we are talking here today may be an even more special occasion as yesterday, Auăleu Theatre just turned nine and the main reason why we opened this pub is because we wanted to support this group. Not working for somebody else so the money we earn would go directly into our theater group. That’s why this coffee-shop as far as it can bring us a profit, will be used in our activity, which is drama..., and I can state that this business provides us with a decent lifestyle and allows our dream to come true.

Question: Have you done any market reasearch before opening? The competition?
Answer: No, no we haven’t, we didn’t really go into other pubs, we had some in which we hanged out... Just to make it clear, Scârțul (or„SC LEJEREANU” as is the name of the company, but for the people coming here it is known as Scârț Loc Lejer) turned 5 this year... We opened it on the 27th of March – World Theater Day. But no, we haven’t done any research. We just wanted a business. I even proposed to open a bagel shop or a candy shop but the idea with the pub... it’s not that it came out of the blue... we had had it in our minds for a while... it’s just that we had some savings and we decided to go for it no matter what. And I think this was the fourth or the fifth house that we visited and we thought it was perfect, we managed to rent the space and... run the show. We got the house in winter – December or January and in March we opened.

Question: What can you tell us about the profile of the business?
Answer: Its profile is mainly what you see, what everybody sees as soon as they come in... mostly objects we collected throughout our theatrical activity... Ovidiu and I, are both passionate about vintage, old objects, the ones from our childhoods and which have a certain value. Generally speaking every object that holds some kind of history means a lot more to us than technology. And they have a certain meaning... a pick-up has its charm. And all you see is mostly Flavia Market, lots are things that people decided to throw away and we found on the street at the spring or autumn clean up. Many of them are things that people brought because they felt it was the place where the object fit in... And I believe that the so-called design of our bar is just like the house... I mean, I see no way in which you could create here a very closed, rigid space... you know, glass and alloy. I believe Timișoara needed this kind of place which is warm and welcoming, where you can actually feel at home! This is what many people tell me, back then and even nowadays, here... they feel at home.

Question: What can you tell us about the clients and whether a profile business doesn’t cause restrictions when it comes to customers as it obviously adresses to one specific type of people?
Answer: It restricts of course and it is very well that it does because when you open your business it is great to state „Okay, this is the way I am going to do it and this is my target”. Most of the time you won’t reach that target or something else happens, many unpredictable things can happen. For instance, at the beginning we had had macrameuri on the tables, we had frills, the classic glass fish, you know which one I am talking about... I think there is only one left... Well in the evenings, one may drink a glass of wine or a beer, accidents happen or maybe they like a macrame so much they want to take it home with them... So as time went by we realised that although we liked some things and they went really well with the place, we just couldn’t keep them as they made our work harder and we had to simplify and make everything more efficient. Clearly at our target we never expected this much success and even less to have so many teenagers from 15 to 25 years old, but they did come... Some realised this wasn’t the place for them and they left, while some kept coming because they kept finding out things they didn’t know. They saw what a pick-up is, what is like to make a theater show in a room, they saw boardgames and they wanted to play, they saw they could sit in the hammocks, that we can make them pancakes, the fact that we serve the lemonade in a big beer mug, the tea is served in a big cup – just like at home, that we smile and we are happy to welcome them and that we act absolutely normal... What we originally wanted was for older people to come and to become nostalgic when they see all the objects and their stories. To the youngster you need to explain what a pick-up is or what a filmstrip is because they don’t know... and it’s normal for them not to know and so, you as Scârţ are a great binder for them to find out about these thing. I am extreamly happy when I see older people coming in. This was the target so to speak but now we are visited from babies to elders. Lately we have a customer, Miss Charlotte who is an older lady with a young spirit and I am very glad that she comes by and she likes it and feels at home. Nobody finds it odd that she comes here and she actually made some friends here.

Question: What difficulties did you stumble upon and how did you cope with them?
Answer: I am not sure we coped with them entirely, there will always be some, but we are trying to keep an image. This is what it is all about, this and making people happy when they come in. Difficulties exist but I don’t think there is any point in mentioning them right now but we are driven enough to do what we do. We realise that this act of courage... or insanity, call it as you wish, is ours and it’s normal that when something is yours, you do everything you can to keep it alive.

Question: Concering the financial part of it, did you have a starting budget? Did you get a loan?
Answer: No we didn’t loan from the bank. All the money we invested were money put aside from our artistic activities. The costs were minimal, we didn’t have a big budget and the house as you can see, we kept it just as it was ...except for the walls which were clean, white and we added some colour. The money were just enough for what we planned to change.

Question: Is the bureaucratic process difficult here in Romania?
Answer: Absolutely. Clearly you can have someone do this for you – as we didn’t know at the time. At first it was the guys who dealt with it, then I picked it up... I am talking mainly about the autorisation of functioning which is not hard to obtain...well yes it is actually, there are a lot of back and forth trips but it can be done... you can do it with some painkillers, calm and with the right documents in your pocket. This is what it felt like 5 years ago, I don’t know if it is still like this nowadays... Maybe it got a lot easier but you need all kinds of papers anyway. For a group of actors who have no connection whatsoever with things like this... Luckily, I had some sort of background, having been employed in so many places I knew how to deal with papers and documents and it didn’t scare me all that much.

Question: The employees... How did you hire them?
Answer: Pfff... Resume... no we didn’t ask them for such things. Us, the actors never left this side of the business, I mean we work with our employees. I think kindness, being fair, on time and helpful were the only criteria we considered. And the fact that there has to be some kind of chemistry between them and us... They need to fit in here. There is the classical trial period and after that, if we work well together, we will stick together. There have been quite a lot of people working for us but we always looked for someone we could rely on andwho would want a long time job. I could say we are a family, a large one. We try not to create the feeling of a boss and an inferior and to have them say „The boss arrived...” It actually annoys us. The fact that we joke with this, that’s a diffrent thing. The best way to describe it would be a relationship... I tell you what to do, you do it or not and if you bring your own impulse and creativity into it, it’s for the best.

Question: Who is the team made of and what roles to each play?
Answer: There is a manager, an accountant, someone to deal with the stock and supplies, a caretaker that cleans the place, the bartenders and barkeepers. We have both. Some are bartenders, some are barkeepers because we serve at the bar and we don’t have cocktails and all that. That would be all.

Question: Did you have a certain marketing strategy?
Answer: Yes a very complicated one... None. We are just kind and friendly. No, we really don’t have one.

Question: How does Auăleu theater fit in Scârţ?
Answer: As I said it wasn’t the pub first and the Theater after it was more like the other way round. Auăleu was already in business and the space that we used to rehearse and perform in was quite small. We didn’t really gain that much space here -7 maybe 8 seats but we really needed to move out of there and now the two activities go well together and Scârțul brought many benefits to the group because most of the customers – even if it wasn’t the first time, but the second, they still saw there is a theater running here as well and tourists came and wanted to see a show... Compared to 5 years ago when we used to have 2 performances a month, now we do it every weekend and from 2 shows we got to 4. The demand for shows is growing especially as we do not advertise the place at all. I assume you know there is no advertisement in Timișoara for neither Scârț nor Auăleu. We only send a newsletter to the people who want and leave their emails in our notebook.

Question: Talking about Timişoara, where would Scârţ place in town?
Answer: I don’t know. That’s something people who come here know. All I can say is one place in Bălcescu, Str. Zoe, nr.1, for now this is where we are.

Question: Would you call Scârț a successful business? Why?
Answer: I really cannot call it successful or not... As far as I am concerned, it is a necessary business.

Question: How can young people be encouraged to open their own business?
Answer: Well I do not know. I don’t think that they can go to an office and ask how to open a business, so they need guts, courage to believe that what they want to do it is achievable and if after that they quit, that's something else.

Question: What else should we say? The ending one more time? The last question?
Answer:Noo

Question: Could you tell me, the name Scârț... how did you choose it?
Answer: Well it had to match Auăleu Theater. And Scârț was that name. We did have some other options, but no... there is no point in mentioning them. I think we got it from a rhymes dictionary... no, no, Ovidiu said it just like that... Everybody kept saying „Scârț” and „You were Scârț”. Ovidiu knows better, but I remember it was the two of us and we discussed it and that was it. Also he has a monologue written that is called „Scârț” because everything squeaks. I think it sounds right: Auăleu Theater at Scârț... They go well together.

Question: And the name of the Theater?
Answer: Auăleu?
Auăleu was a word that we kept saying at the rehearsals as we tried to solve all kinds of situations: „Auăleu! I didn’t bring my... ”, „Auăleu, auăleu!”. We were torn between „Vai de mine” and „Auăleu”, but Auăleu goes better for a theater group because the theater itself is always torn betweet sadness and joy, a smile and a tear.„Auăleu” is something you say when you are both happy, sad or terrified by something. And it is typically romanian.

Question: Do you still have some? (battery)
Answer: As much as your heart pleases.

Question: What else was I supposed to ask?
Answer: I have no idea.
The financial questions will be emailed as I see no point in filming that. Question: Anything else we should mention?
About the garden or... but no. I think that what really should be mentioned is that the contribution of our clients, or friends, as we like to call them, is huge. So many things you see here are brought by them as they identify with the place and they feel the need to fill this home of theirs. They even bring furniture. They are active and very thoughtful. They clean the place... we never insisted that they bring their cups back to bar... They are respectful and that is something! Obviously, not all of them are, but they can be educated. Every autumn there is a new wave of students who don’t know the place and need to be taught some things about respecting the garden and the nature and all.

Question: Is there any object with a more special story? What I have in mind is the bar covered in coins.
Answer: Yes, I recently uploaded a picture of it as it was back then when we started and all the furniture was intact. That was also brought from a friend of ours. We brought it in while it was raining cats and dogs and then we decided to stick coins on it. Also there is the wall that has a beautiful story... The wall in front of the bar is filled with words and memories from our clients who wanted to leave a nice memory here and so we just gave them a marker and it filled up. Although Scârţul went through 4 restaurations or redecorations, we left the wall untouched.

Question: Tell us who Nică is?
Answer: Nică is... if you want, I can bring him... He is our Dachshund... There was also, well, we began with Pampon, Pampon left us unfortunately, then came Petic and now we have Nică... Neică as we like to call him... Who is now asleep...
I asked Marius about him too. I’ve been coming here two weeks in a row, almost daily and I haven’t seen Nică once.