Brick is In

Brick is so in right now. Brick is this year’s drywall, whereas last year’s drywall was the previous year’s…wait, what was I talking about again?

Yeah, brick. Every cafe has brick now. Brick is a hot commodity like no other. Like how you can’t really have a single cafe in Melbourne that doesn’t serve avocado and poached egg on sourdough toast, and it has to arrive on a wooden chopping board. Wooden chopping boards are this year’s plates.

I was talking about…brick, yeah, I remember. I keep raising it at staff meetings, but they keep giving me the same answer: the walls aren’t brick. They’re regular wallpaper. But did you know you can get digital print brick effect wallpaper now? That’s like the best of both worlds. You can have what looks like a brick wall, but you can also drill into it and hang pictures and whatever else. I had it done in my room at home, because brick is just so great that it even works for bedroom. Every time I glance over at the wall I’m overcome with a rustic sense of a simpler time, before everyone decided that all walls should be a neutral white. Feature walls are great, and with the digital wallpaper revolution, you can have whatever you like without having to apply coats of heavy paint.

Just saying. We could have a FEATURE brick wall, and it’d be easy to apply. Not that the cafe is doing badly, given that we basically have a monopoly on the area and people have nowhere else to go, but I just think that some brick would go real nice over on the far wall. A nice bit of rustic, vintage wallpaper to go along with our wooden chopping boards and oaken countertops. There are companies in Melbourne that print custom wallpaper with whatever pattern you like. Patterns like…bees. And cacti. And brick.


…sorry, Brandon.

Nautical Nonsense Is Not What I Wish

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.


Designer Lighting = Cozy Comfort

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.


The Cafe Christmas Party!

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.


Chatting About Fences, While in the Oven…

glass pool fencesCustomer 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.


This Crazy, Inspirational Family

arborist melbourneI 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.


Finding Fishing Friends

stainless steel fabricationAt 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!


All (most) Dogs Welcome!

dog walker based in MelbourneEveryone’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.


All Set for a Cafe Wedding

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.


Chatting to the Pirate

boat catchesWe’re not particularly near the ocean, so it’s not often we get sailors in here. I imagine they have all their dock cafes and such, where they have low-priced food for lunch. Hmp

But it’s not my place to judge. I mean, I WILL judge, silently, but it won’t get any further than that. Hopefully this fellow goes back and tells all his sailor friends, and they all come and get some REAL food from someone who actually knows how to cook. And yet, somehow I doubt it…honestly the effort I put into his panini, he’d BETTER come back, or else!

He talked a lot about his job, hence why I know. I had food items cooking in the kitchen, but it took me a good fifteen minutes just to serve his coffee because he had an opinion on the marine trailer repairs industry and how materials have been hard to find, and how not as many people are casually sailing as they used to, and how he thinks the entire sailing industry has reached a point where people’s priorities have changed and it’s just terrible. For some reason. Now, I don’t usually have a problem giving anyone some serious side-eye when they’re wasting my time, but Johnny said that I need to tone it down when I’m talking to the customers. Oh, so they can waste my time with impunity? Yep, that sounds fair. Customer service, seriously…

So here I was, smiling through my teeth at the grizzled guy drinking his coffee and talking like he’d just stepped out of the golden age of piracy. To be fair, I love the sea. I grew up near Lorne, even had a little boat of my own: the Moon Princess, because I was very young and didn’t know how to name things. Also, it never actually sailed; I just got in it and pretended it did. Not that I was adverse to actual sailing. It was always something I enjoyed, hence why I couldn’t help be interested in all this boat posturing. How annoying.

But food called, I excused myself and the grizzled sea captain eventually up and left. Made me wonder how all that stuff was going down at the docks in Melbourne, with the trailer repairs and the boat catches. I should take a day off and check out the docks…