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.
We’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…
A guestbook seemed like a good idea, at first. I know, I’m probably laying it on a bit thick with all the ‘we’re new, tell us all about what we’re doing wrong!’ business, but I really wanted this to be a café of democracy. I have so many more related ideas…you wouldn’t believe how many I’m sitting on. But anyway, the guestbook seemed great until people stopped taking it seriously. Mostly the regulars, I might add, who I’m otherwise very fond of for all the business.
So, back to the drawing board. I still get pretty interesting ones though, since I encourage people to tell me a bit about themselves. One guy came in, polite and friendly and normal looking as anything, but I remember him because he was new. Also, really tall and well-dressed, like…sort of Japanese fashion? Turns out he was a very famous specialist makeup course teacher from Brisbane, down as a special guest for the debut performance of one of his students. Or whatever you call it when a makeup artist makes a debut. It was for that new musical, Wannabes, about that gang in Scotland who are desperately trying to be known as the ‘cool’ kids but keep doing things that make their local community love them instead, because deep down they’re all pretty decent folks. My sister went to see it and she said she was in stitches, so that explains all the hype.
Hearing about a makeup course teacher coming all the way down from Brisbane makes me think of some wise Kung Fu master coming to watch the tournament of his favourite student. Maybe that’s just my imagination running away with me. Still, it’s a fun image. And he was in my café! I looked him up, and you can read about him online. Maybe this is our very first celebrity ever!
So meeting famous beautician course teachers is one really good use of the guestbook, if people actually get to signing it. It’s not as interesting or useful when the regulars leave rude drawings. The public sees this stuff, guys!