The Sister Duo, Valerie and Chelsea of Fine Cafes: Taking The First Leap

It takes two to tango, and some backup dancers.
By: Iffah Salleh
January 17, 2024

We’ve all heard about that classic love-hate dance between siblings; the ‘I love you, but I can’t stand you’ vibe. But here’s the twist, even  siblings who fight like cats and dogs will find ways to cheer on each other on from a distance. But this sister duo, prove us wrong!

Chelsea and Valerie Liew

Today, we’re talking about powerhouse sibling duo and the brains behind three of the best cafes in Klang Valley: Fine Coffee and Flowers, Fine Coffee Bar, and Fine X Gerson! Introducing sisters Valerie and Chelsea Liew. Together, they’re the ultimate yin and yang, conquering the F&B scene with an unstoppable spirit. We had the pleasure of indulging in their culinary wonders a few months back, and let us tell you, it was nothing short of FABULOUS! 

In this exclusive spotlight, they spilled the tea on the backstage drama and how their distinct personalities form the ultimate dream team, making success look like a walk in the park. Trust us, you’re in for a treat!

Fine Cafes

The Liew sisters boldly ventured into the business scene during the challenging times of the MCO at the end of 2020. Despite sceptics questioning the viability of their venture, they pushed through, stood their ground, and conquered the odds! 

Fast forward to now, Fine cafes stand proudly among the top cafes in Klang Valley, becoming a beloved destination for many. Their very first gem, Fine Coffee & Flowers, is nestled in Ampang Utama, radiating vibes and an incredible menu that draw people in. 

But it doesn’t stop there, they’ve expanded their empire to Subang and Great Eastern Mall, each location sporting its own unique colour palette. It’s this distinctive touch that sets them apart, making every outlet a vibrant and unparalleled experience!

Leap of Faith and Concept

What sparked the idea for Fine? We love the cafe vibes – can you share the backstory behind this unique concept?

Valerie: Opening a café was always a dream for both me and my sister, Chelsea, but time never seemed to be on our side. We took the plunge during the initial phase of the MCO when Malaysia had relatively low cases compared to other countries. It was a leap of faith, an idea we wanted to execute and see how it unfolds. However, as it turned out, the starting point proved to be the most challenging step .

The concept behind the cafe revolves around collaboration with Chelsea. She brings more experience in the F&B industry, having worked in the field before taking charge of this cafe. While I, coming from a marketing background, I think we balance each other pretty nicely.

Check out their bespoke flower services at Fine Flowers by VACH

Before fully committing to this concept, we previously ran a flower business, supplying and catering flowers for weddings and events. That served as the core idea, leading us to create a space where we could blend our expertise in the F&B industry with our passion for flowers. This vision gave birth to Fine Flower and Coffee, the first of our three Fine outlets. 

Among them, it stands out as the only one offering this unique combination of services. Thankfully, Chelsea and I get along very well, especially considering we began this venture during the MCO. It’s been quite a journey, and we’ve trained hard, striving not just to survive but to thrive.

Chelsea: Yeah, I believe we’ve formed a strong bond since the beginning of this venture. Our lives were quite separate before, but now, we’re constantly together, even after work, which is something we both genuinely enjoy. I recognise that many sibling relationships aren’t as close, but somehow, the dynamic teamwork between us is working well.

So, who initiated the idea to take the leap of faith here?

Valerie: I often consider myself the more spontaneous one between us. I’ll just go to my sister and say, ‘Let’s do this, or let’s do that.’ But at the same time, I also think that we’re both equally crazy when it comes to achieving success.

Chelsea: (laughs) Well, having been in the F&B industry for quite some time, when Valerie pitched the idea to me, I instantly liked it. It aligned with half of my expertise, so I said, ‘Let’s do it!’ The MCO period was undoubtedly the most challenging time, but we managed to overcome it. 

It also allowed us to personally connect with our customers, and I truly appreciate the support during those times. I’m grateful for the sense of community that come together and support each other.

Calm and Relaxed Environment

The ambiance looks so chill! How do you create an atmosphere that’s perfect for unwinding and escaping the daily grind? What’s the vibe you hope customers feel when they step into any of Fine’s trilogy?

Valerie: For all our outlets, we’ve opted for neutral colours that exude calmness and comfort. When you visit any of our locations, you’ll notice similar tones and vibes, from the colours to the flower decorations, even down to the small floral details on our plates. 

Source: Instagram

Adding plants enhances the inviting atmosphere, and overall, we aim to make our cafes feel like a second home. Our intention is for customers to come in, unwind, and disconnect from their busy lives. It’s a simple concept – a place where you can feel comfortable enough to eat, work, or catch up with friends. We want our cafes to offer a cosy sanctuary where people can relax and enjoy the experience.

Each Outlet Has Their Own Twist

Your outlets each have their own personality. It’s like having three cool friends. How did you decide on the distinctiveness of each location – like, if they were people, how would you describe them?

Valerie: I see all three outlets as distinct personalities with similar goals — a fusion of comfort, aesthetics, and a welcoming ambiance where one could spend ample time. Essentially, they are places for people to unwind. 

When we started, our vision was for the business to expand, but we hadn’t precisely outlined how we wanted to paint the picture. We aimed to create each outlet uniquely, tailored to the surroundings and opportunities, yet the core remained constant: a comfortable atmosphere, good food, and a space to simply relax.

With every new venture, there’s a desire to experiment, but at the same time, you can’t stray too far from your roots. It’s like expansion packs — each one is equally fantastic but distinct. I believe that’s what makes us special.

For music, personally, I lean towards lo-fi and R&B, often playing songs from my own playlist. Occasionally, the staff contributes to the playlist for a change in vibe. Interestingly, the Great Eastern outlet’s staff shares a similar taste, resulting in a cohesive musical atmosphere.

On the other hand, the Subang outlet opts for a more calming music selection, enhancing the shopping and communal experience in its shared space.

Creating The Menu

Those food pics are making us seriously hungry! How would you describe the kind of culinary experience you’re cooking up, and do you have any secret menu items we should know about?

Valerie: Chelsea takes charge of things because she has more experience. When we try new things, she always gives good suggestions on how to make them better, and we’re really grateful for that.

Source: Instagram

We put a lot of thought into everything we offer. If you look at our menu, you’ll see it’s pretty simple. We like to keep it basic because when people come in, they usually just want something comforting to eat without it being too fancy.

Our cakes and desserts, especially the ones people really like, are the stars of our menu. If something doesn’t sell well, we introduce new items. We’ve been doing this for a few months now. We pay a lot of attention to the quality of our food, especially at our Ampang outlet, where we spend a lot of time, and we consider it as our second home.

Source: Instagram

As for a secret menu, we don’t have an official one. However, we do have seasonal cakes. Right now, we have a Strawberry Matcha Cheesecake. It easily sold out, and if customers miss it, they always tell us to remind them when it will be available again. So, in a way, our special cakes are kind of like our secret menu.

Chelsea: In creating our menus, whether food or cakes, we work with our chef very closely. Since we started, and she (the chef) also knows what we want so it make things easier. We do love to explore, we will go out and cafe hop and be inspired. And if we feel like it fits our vision and theme, we will try to do it with our own twist and introduce it in our cafe and look forward on the feedback.

Support Local

Being part of the community is awesome! Are there any fun community events or initiatives that Fine is involved in? Spill the beans on the cool stuff you do locally!

Valerie: Every year we will do a big spring cleaning. We will put aside things that we no longer use. Let’s say, we bought a lot of bowls for this particular item, and then we no longer sell this item. So, we will donate these bowls to old folk homes or people who need it.

We also collaborated with OATSIDE recently, and we’re also a huge supporter for our local business too. So, to show our support to local SMEs, we have a corner or walls at our cafes where we sell products from them. Some of them are family-oriented business. So, in any way we can help, we’re happy to do so because I can understand how hard the first few steps in the business are.

Growth and Gratitude

Time flies! Since the beginning, how has Fine evolved? Any stories or unexpected twists along the way?

Valerie: We’ve come a long way, from having just one or two customers a day to what we have now, and it feels like a significant improvement, especially considering the challenges of the MCO. We’re incredibly thankful we managed to push through.

Our growth has been quite rapid, and a big part of that is thanks to our regular customers. If you visit any of our cafes, you’ll notice many familiar faces. I believe that’s the ultimate goal for any F&B owner: to build a community of supporters who not only visit frequently but also provide positive comments and feedback. This continuous support helps us keep improving and evolving.

Moreover, those who regularly order from us through Grab also demonstrate tremendous support. It’s truly heartening to see this sense of community, and we’re grateful for each and every person who contributes to our journey.

Any heartwarming tales from customers that made you go, “Wow, this is why we do what we do”? We’d love to hear about those memorable moments!

Valerie: There’s this one memorable story from the MCO period – most of my stories seem to be from that time because we were quite active then (laugh). You see, during the MCO, events like weddings were not allowed. 

So, there was this bride who needed twenty cakes urgently, and no one was willing to take on the challenge. We decided to step up and meet the order in every possible way. The bride was incredibly grateful, and to this day, she’s become one of our regular customers, dropping by every now and then.

It’s moments like these that make us feel special. Both of us left a lasting impression on her, and when she visits, she’s incredibly supportive. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you’ve done something meaningful for someone, and it’s truly nice to see that impact on her and feel the support she gives us in return.

Disclaimer: All of their activities followed the proper guidelines released by MOH.

2024 and Beyond

What’s next on the horizon for Fine? Are any exciting plans or dreams you’re brewing up for the future, especially in 2024?

Sneak peek of plate design of fine: ‘You are doing fine’

Valerie: We’ve been thinking about gradually building a lifestyle brand, and we’re exploring releasing our own plates for sale. Selling these goods aligns with our ultimate idea – for people to bring a part of ‘Fine’ into their homes. Our vision includes plates featuring our logo ‘Fine’ and a positive quote like, ‘You are doing fine.’ The aim is to spread positivity and hopefully bring a smile to people whenever they see it.

In addition to plates, we also create seasonal cookies. Last year, we wrapped up a special batch for Christmas, and currently, we’re offering treats for Chinese New Year. These cookies come in cute packages, perfect for personal enjoyment, sharing with family, or even as a thoughtful gift. It’s all about bringing a touch of ‘Fine’ into various aspects of people’s lives.

As we enter the new beginning of 2024, do you have any heartfelt messages or warm words for everyone out there?

Valerie: I hope everyone can find a sense of calmness amid their busy lives. Taking one or two hours off from the hustle and bustle can provide a much-needed opportunity to unwind before diving into the next chapter.

Chelsea:  Wishing everyone good health, especially as we navigate through the resurgence of COVID. Hopefully, we’ll overcome it once again. I believe people are more prepared now, so take care and find moments to enjoy life amidst the challenges.

Where Are  Fine Outlets Located?

Source: Instagram

All Fine cafes are open during public holidays. 

So, if you’re wondering if there are any eateries open for you to come and unwind, you know the place. If you want to tone down some stress during your lunch break, you also know the place. Even for dinners, if you’re thinking of having some simple but fulfilling food without it being too heavy, yeah, you guessed it: you know the place.

Ampang Utama

AddressC2, Jalan Ampang Utama 1/1, Tmn, Taman Ampang Utama, 68000 Ampang Jaya, Selangor.
Daily: 9am – 6pm
+63 9369 7587

Subang SS18

Address19, Jalan SS 18/6, Ss18, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor
Mon to Fri: 9am – 9pm,
Sat & Sun: 11am – 9pm.

Great Eastern Mall

AddressLot 17, Ground Floor, Great Eastern Mall, 303, Jln Ampang, Desa Pahlawan, 50450 Ampang, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur.
Daily: 11am – 7pm,
Closed on Tuesday.
+603 2300 4949

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