To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been in a café with a nautical theme that I liked. I know that sounds like I’m being discriminatory against sailors and the sea life, but I’m really not. Maybe I’m slightly biased against cafes in coastal towns, but only if they try to dress themselves up like they’re the inside of a ship. Like, just…knock it off. We all know you picked up that ship’s wheel on G-Buy, and the anchor is probably from the gift shop next door.
I’ve no idea why I find the idea so tacky, but anytime anyone suggests something like that for this place, I just have to try to put my foot down. Fortunately, Johnny doesn’t seem too enthused with the idea either. Well, it’s that, and we’re mostly landlocked here. We can try to appeal to workmen in Melbourne servicing outboard motor repairs or whatever but I don’t think we’ll get many in.
Actually, I think my dislike of fake marine stuff might be from when I grew up in Mornington. I was an actual sea kid- in by boat, rain or shine. Always wanted to get a larger boat and go sailing, but then we moved away from the coast and I haven’t had the time or money to go boating ever since. Guess seeing all the memorabilia whilst it’s not connected to anything- or being flaunted by people who don’t understand that world- just really irritates me. Irrationally, I will admit.
Maybe I should just get over it. If you’ve repurposed an anchor winch and are using is as a flashy counter decoration for your café, I should learn to live with it. It’s not like I ever actually managed to break into Melbourne’s marine industry anyway. The people in Melbourne who do outboard motor repairs and all that are just a hardier sort. I bet they’d absolutely hate their craft being used as cheap decorations. And then there’s me…the guy making coffee who can’t let go of the past. I don’t really have the right to get mad over much.
One thing I’ll say about Johnny: he does nothing in half measures. He took a few weeks off to deal with that whole issue of a child being dumped at his doorstep, and now he’s back with a thousand ideas for the cafe. It’s like he was on a relaxing Parisian holiday instead of dealing with a major life change.
So now he wants to convert the loft space into an extra bit of seating, creating a multi-layer cafe. It’s ambitious, but he came to the staff meeting armed with blueprints and everything. Says he wants it to be really swish, so we’re going for glass balustrades and everything. Apparently he knows a guy, who knows a guy, who knows someone who can do some quality glazier services. Okay…I just smile and nod a lot of the time when this kind of thing gets brought up. I’m not a visual learner and I have a lot of trouble envisioning things. I know we have some loft space that isn’t really being used for anything, and I can sort of see how- if you knock down the wall, clean out the space, do a whole lot of dusting, add some artwork, new flooring, and of course an actual stairwell instead of just a ladder- you could make a really nice little space. Not sure about the glass balustrading though. I thought we already got rid of the decorative glass guy a few weeks ago, but here we are, discussing glaziers. I hope Johnny didn’t actually want some decorative glass, because I don’t think he’s coming back.
So now we have a mad little idea from the man himself. We DO need more sitting space; often people just walk in and walk out, even when we can use the outdoor seating. The extra room along with the chic appeal of the upstairs space could do wonders. I’ve absolutely no idea how any of it is going to get done though. I’m not a residential glazier…I just make the coffee. And look after the cat that the cafe now basically owns. Just showed up one day; has a collar, but I don’t think it actually has a home. But who calls a cat ‘Tabby Crawshaw’ anyway?
I just LOVE seeing a place with some juicy potential, and this café is FULL of it. Seriously, just…full to the seams. It’s a lovely place and I told the owner myself. Slipped it on one of those cute little response cards and put it in the box. Still, it’s not like I’m going to leave it there. I’m an interior designer by trade, so I won’t stop until everything is perfect. And I see perfection in this humble café on the edge of nowhere, to be sure.
So strange to find such a gem all the way out here. However, one of the greatest flaws is that the décor just doesn’t quite fit together, if you get my meaning. It’s nice enough, but something is missing. Lighting could be changed a tad, since right now the light is slightly more white than yellow. I used to specialise in commercial lighting, before I realised I could be stifling my talents by just focusing on the one thing. I remember it all like it was as crystal clear as a fine chandelier, however. Not that I think a chandelier would work in a place like this, oh no. People come into a café to feel relaxed, not like they have to stand on ceremony for fine dining. I wouldn’t even recommend a proper chandelier for some of the finest restaurants in the business; they’re quite niche in what they can offer.
However, like all the very finest things in life, there are always lighting options. If we’re talking designer lighting, you can get chandelier-style lights that lend an air of grace and sophistication while coming across as relaxed and chic. It’s a fine line, but one with my expertise might be able to recommend such a thing. Otherwise, there are some excellent standing lamps. When it comes to Melbourne’s designer lighting industry, few things are finer. Although don’t even get me STARTED on sofas. I need to make another visit, clearly.
I can’t be the only one motivated by classical music. Classical music is wonderful in general, but I work in copywriting, so I’m constantly writing product reviews and descriptions that can be so dull they drive you into a coma. That’s why I try to give myself as much extra kicking as possible. I’m here at the cafe (which has free wifi, thankfully!), I’ve got my extra-strong espresso, and my earphones are in playing some really terrifying classical music to keep me in a state of readiness.
My preference at the moment is with Beethoven- you really can’t beat him when it comes to pieces composed to get your heart thumping- but I’ve recently discovered Mussorgsky. Something must’ve happened in that man’s childhood, because phew, all of his music sounds like it was composed at gunpoint. Perfect for me, though!
I’m on a major project at the moment, actually. I’ve been commissioned to write reviews for all kinds of Melbourne steel products, and since I’m no steel expert I have to do my research. I’m technically kind of a foreign correspondent, since the company is in Hungary. Why am I writing on Melbourne-based steel? No idea. But it’s a big job and I’m their only correspondent in Melbourne, so I got first dibs on the job. Helps that I live in a pretty industrial area, so there are just steel lintels and fabrication all over the place. Also, a really nice cafe that doesn’t make sense with the surrounding area.
It makes a lot of business sense, don’t get me wrong! This place is a hub, but also a place people pass through a lot…and everyone wants a great coffee. So you get a mix of locals, regulars, passersby, construction workers and visitors. I’m a regular, myself, but it can be hard to get a table in the peak times.
Anyway, better focus on these quality Melbourne structural steel fabricators. Maybe I can just talk to one of the construction guys. I know pretty much ALL the regulars, and Johnny definitely knows them all.
A year or so in, and I’m pretty happy with how things are going! Just putting the finishing touches on the plans for the Christmas party, but I already have a bunch of RSVPs from regular café visitors and I’m wondering if we’re going to fit everyone in. Might have to clear the chairs and open up the space out the back. Ah well…at least this means that people do like the place.
Someone suggested that we add games to the event, which is taking things a bit far. I want everyone to come along, drink coffee, have some mulled wine, eat mince pies and just enjoy themselves. But that’s Dale…he’s one of my regulars, teaches cricket down at the park. The kind of guy who’ll talk your ear off about cricket nets for hours on end; or he would, if I didn’t remind him about his own appointments. Sometimes I wonder if people rely on me too much! I have a good memory, and if someone tells me they’re doing something or working somewhere, I’ll remember it. My short term isn’t as good, but that’s just swings and roundabouts, right?
Take Dale for one example. Basically, he comes to the café now to have his life run. We feed him brunch, coffee, remind him that he’s got to pick up the sports netting for today’s lesson, give him a nudge that it’s his wife’s birthday or anniversary (Sara comes in as well…) and generally kick him out when he needs to go to work. It’s the same with a few of our regulars; they treat this place like a second home. I really like the idea, but it’s as stressful as parenting sometimes. Feels like playing den mother to a bunch of well-meaning coffee addicts.
Well, if people love the café, then I’m happy to go beyond. It’ll be great to chat to all the regulars at the party, even if Dale spends most of the time on cricket netting and forgets his kids when he leaves. They’re a funny lot down here. But they’re our customers. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Customer service tip: chat, but not TOO much. That’s especially applicable to me, because I’m baking goodies for the enjoyment of all café patrons, and I can’t be loitering around stuck in a conversation while my vol-au-vents are going from crispy and delicious to charred rubbish. It’s a waiting game, but also one of timing.
I’m mostly reiterating this to myself, because I had a bit of a disaster yesterday. I understand that Johnny’s is the kind of environment where everyone feels at home, and that’s really lovely, but it does make people chatty and when someone doesn’t leave you any breaks to slip away…well, disaster. We had a lady in this morning who does official inspections of Melbourne pool fencing to make sure it’s up to standard, all the children are safe, etc. I don’t know if she’s terribly lonely or just the type who loves to talk about her work, but I got my ear talked off for a good twenty minutes on how she visited a home that morning and they’d painted all over the fence so you couldn’t see inside. I could really see her point, though; that’s just not on. These folks had children as well, so…well, all pool fencing is made to see THROUGH. No point if you’re blocking the view.
So that happened. Half of my brain was in the kitchen, thinking about the gingerbread family that should’ve been brown and crispy, but I just couldn’t escape. There’s so much to learn about pool fencing, clearly! Anyway, I lost track of time, finally managed to excuse myself and returned to find smoke leaking from the oven. My gingerbread family came out looking like they’d been in a horrible house fire, and nobody had any gingerbread that day. Oh, I just HATE messing up a bake! I learned plenty about Melbourne’s glass pool fencing industry, to be sure, but in the end I’d rather have some well-baked gingerbread men. That’s my job, after all.
I really like Johnny, don’t get me wrong, but his family is weird. Every time I come to the café, it’s like I’ve walked into a wacky sitcom where some foreign people who don’t understand Aussie culture try to run a business, and it ends in hilarious, episodic disaster every time. Johnny is the lovable everyman who gets along with everyone and has to defuse the situation, the cook is the matron who turns into a tyrant when people don’t do things her way, the shop assistant is the snarky, socially-active drama queen and…well, Johnny’s dad just keeps trying to chop down the trees out the front. He used to work for a arborist in Melbourne somewhere? Old habits must die hard, but more on that later. I guess I’m just one of those patrons who always hangs around in the background and occasionally gets to react to something. Maybe a line if I’m really lucky.
Argh, sorry…I’m doing that thing where I mix work and leisure. I just finished working on Week of Our Lives, and I’ve moved onto what I think is going to be the next big hit comedy: Friendly Misfits. It’s about a bunch of people who are all around each other’s homes all the time, or hanging out in a coffee shop very much like this one and getting themselves into hilarious scrapes. And now I just can’t detach myself; I come to the café to relax, but I start casting everyone in the show and I can’t stop. You’ve got the mother, who cares a lot but shows it in really strange ways, like buying an official café cat. The foreign cousin who’s a total ladies’ man with insecurity issues. It all just falls into place and if nothing else, I’m getting a load of inspiration. Seriously, this is great material.
The father is definitely getting worked in, somehow…a well-meaning member of the Melbourne tree stump removal industry who can’t let his old job go. It’s like tree lopping, but…it’s stump removal.
At some point I realised that I wasn’t going to make any friends just by sitting at home and wishing that I had some. I don’t get out all that much any more, not since Martha passed on, but it finally got too much the other day. I’m still hale and hearty, I still go for hikes every weekend, so I can’t just let myself fade away socially! Good thing Johnny’s Café opened recently, otherwise I probably would’ve had to drive a good twenty minutes or so just to find the nearest decent coffee joint. It would’ve been that, or trying to chat up that lady in the wool shop every day. She might be my type, I’m really not sure.
So I lumbered in, had a good chat to Johnny- seen him around a bit, but never chatted to him until now- and tried to see if any old fellows my age were interested in chatting about fishing rod holders and hook size variations. It’s pushing my luck a bit, I know…Martha always just tolerated my fishing habit when she was alive, never saying anything (because she was an absolute gem) but making it clear that she’d rather have a couple of friends over while I’m out on my boat. At least back then I could come home to her, even if I never tried to talk to her about snapper racks and such. Now I’d just really like some conversation. And if it can be on the subject of fishing, so be it!
I don’t just want to go and brazenly ask Johnny if any of the people who come in here like fishing. Browsing the online guestbook, it looks as if I’m not going to find what I’m looking for, at least not so far. Though not everyone has signed, I suppose. Maybe I just need to find a new hobby. Stop following the latest trends in marine stainless steel fabrication in Melbourne and start pursuing something else, though. Bridge, or bingo, or…skydiving. Don’t think I will, though. I’ll keep coming along to the café anyway, because you never know. Also, great coffee!
Everyone’s asked me enough, so I guess I’d better codify it here (even though I just made a sign): dogs are welcome in the café. This isn’t some franchise where we have solid rules. I say dogs are okay, so long as they’re definitely calm and under control. I love dogs, and while it’ll mean some more stringent hand-washing regulations, I’d like to welcome them in in a way that cafes usually don’t.
I mean, there are still technically rules. I’m sorry, fine dog walkers of Melbourne, but if you’re stopping at the café, you’re not really doing your job all that well anyway. There’s a limit of…let’s say two dogs. Two well-behaved dogs. I’m even thinking of renovating the courtyard out the back so that the more skittish animals can go there, where it’s nice and quiet. It’s a bit of a dumping ground right about now, but I can really make it work as a quiet space if I have a weekend off. Yep, that’s going to happen…
The reason I bring it up is that one of my aunts has a wolf dog, a hybrid who isn’t that great with people. I keep telling her she needs to visit, she tells me that Wolfenstein can’t be left alone for any length of time, the cycle goes on…except what if I make a place just for Wolfenstein? I’m sure he’d love being in the courtyard, secluded while Aunt Maisie drinks her coffee and actually enjoys some time out of the house. She can’t even get a dog walker in for him, since he runs away from anyone who isn’t her. It’s all a bit of a sad situation, but I think I might be able to help.
So it’s official. All dogs welcome, very much so. Though please, Melbourne based dog walkers…maybe find a more open space than my café to rest with your conga line of pooches.
Well, this is a fun new development. I only just listed the café as available to hire, someone already said that they want to have their wedding reception here. Naturally, that was briefly terrifying, but as it turns out, it’s a very intimate event and there will only be about thirty. We can definitely accommodate that much! They even said that they’ll be bringing their own barista and caterers, so all we really have to do is set the place up and put it back together again. I’m guessing some people won’t be happy about us closing slightly early on a Saturday, but…well, it’s some really good money for moving a couple of chairs around!
I’m really wondering what this place will look like in the wedding video. I mean, I know a few people who do wedding video in Melbourne, and they inevitably transform their creations into something you’d see on that channel 72 show, Darla’s Day of Dreams. Okay, look, I caught it a couple of times when I was at home with the flu and so fevered I didn’t know what I was watching. Basically, Darla comes in (usually in a bridezilla situation- got to get those ratings!) and fixes up an unhappy couple’s special day to make them totally content. They actually looked pretty good, too. Perfectly fixed for television, but…still good. And I know Mum and Dad used a videographer for their wedding, even though that was back in the day before photoshop and…I don’t know, Final Cut Pro. He made the whole thing look really flash, too. Just goes to show what you can do with a bit of simple editing and steady camera-work.
I wonder if I’ll get to watch the wedding video? I’m really hoping so, since then I can point it out and tell people “that’s my café!”. Maybe I’ll get the bride and/or groom to share me in on Visage-Tome. Because that’s what all MY friends want to see, right? A video of a random stranger’s wedding? Ah well…if he’s still in business, I know a good videographer in the Melbourne area. But they probably have their own. I’ll just focus on getting the chairs set up right.