▲ The interior of Dolzip Café. Photo by Yun Seong Un
Stumbling across the Dolzip Café in the small town of Seogwang, Seogwipo City, is likely to elicit a variety of feelings from unsuspecting passers-through. To say that the coffee shop is quaint and charming is an understatement. Old wood mixed with stone in the setting of a well-kept and colorful garden gives an aura of mystery and fantasy to the simple house. In addition, visitors are almost guaranteed to be greeted by a gentle song coming through the open door.
The Dolzip (which translates to “stone house”) opened six months ago and is close to idyllic in its antiquity, the only modern reminder being the occasional car that passes by. Two small tables sit outside the café, and inside one finds a handful of sturdy wooden tables. In the back of the room is a loft with doors that open to reveal a small stage with a chair and a microphone.
Heo Young Soo is the shop’s owner, whose story helps to reveal some of the mystery that shrouds the Dolzip oasis. Heo is a jack-of-all-trades whose restlessness has led him all over Korea eventually bringing him to Seogwang to create the café.
▲ Photos by Tim Cushing and Yun Seong Un
Heo’s original career path was nursing. However, after graduating from college on Jeju and landing his first job he quickly decided that it was not for him and took off for Seoul. It was there that he played acoustic folk and country music for five years, even releasing a CD. With this money, he paid for heart operations for five children – an act of charity that made him somewhat of a celebrity at the time. He then decided to leave the life of a musician and headed back to Jeju where he bought a boat and wholeheartedly pursued fishing for two years. He eventually tired of this trade and began to assemble the materials to build a house.
Heo spent seven years gathering the puzzle pieces that would eventually be reconfigured to create the Dolzip. He traveled around Jeju every day looking for rocks and wood from old houses that would fit his design. The front of the Dolzip is a wall of natural stones that have not been altered from their original form. Two-hundred-year-old wood forms the posts and beams and ceiling.
When Heo began the endeavor, he had no background in carpentry and taught himself using, as his friend Andy describes it, a “copycat” approach. When asked about the first thing that he built, Andy pointed to the table at which we sat. Heo started with building these tables using a traditional technique that does not require nails. From there, the Dolzip began to take form and was finished within six months.
It was not until the stone house was completed that Heo decided it would be a fitting place for a coffee shop. Using some of his wife’s recipes he formed a menu and got the café going. The menu features a few food items, the specialty being French toast. There is also a delicious Hallabong-ade made from homemade Jeju jam. Heo takes the stage every night at nine and encourages musicians of all types to share their talents. For those looking for an inexpensive place to stay for the night, there is a reasonable guesthouse called Heodang which is a stone’s throw from the café that Heo also runs.
So what is next for Heo? For now he plans to run the café until life takes him in another direction. He is comfortable at the Dolzip. Translating for him, Andy said, “He doesn’t care about how to get money, the only important thing is what is more beautiful.” It seems that the Dolzip Café is beautiful enough.
(Interpretation by Baek Dong Soo)
Dolzip Café Address: 1856-2 Seogwang-ri, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo City (around the middle of Olle walking course 14-1) Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. / Phone: 011-757-5455 / dmaps.kr/8m23
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