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Is this the right time to open a business? depends on the business.
Is this the right time to open a small coffee shop? depends as well. Hows the local market? where will you be located? What is the competition? Are you thinking of a special concept?
With the economy the way it is, I think you'll find rent alot easier.. and I think people would still come to coffee shops (They do here), since it's not a big expense.
What I think is, you should make your place unique.. in style or service or products. Gain a costumers base.. regular people coming in could really keep you going in the hard times (especially if they're kind hearted), if you have a special style to the look of the place, if you provide a very friendly service or make the people feel very welcomed (and no just in line to buy coffee) I think you would succeed.
People like coming back to places they feel welcomed in. Alot of people out there have their loneliness surge from once in a while, and will look for places like this. Then it's your chance to 'hook' them
I really believe that this kind of approach to a coffee shop is your best move. and there won't be a better time than now :-)
G'luck to you
The comments from BrassJmes are truly worth considering. Conventional wisdom would say that now is a great time to start a small business. You might want to check out a forum on the WSJ http://forums.wsj.com/viewtopic.php?t=3589. About 2/3 of those responding to the survey think positively about starting a business at this time.
Do you want to own the coffee shop outright?
What you could do is purchase a franchise such as Java City or Starbucks. They will giving you training and you already have the brand name and reputation. But I would look into the area for other coffee shops if there are any and how are they doing.