The importance of cafes in local community city living.

Walking down to our local cafe the other day, I was a bit shocked when two strangers were standing behind the counter manning the coffee machine and working the grill. So shocked, that I stood there, mouth gaping a little, eyebrows frowning while I contemplated the scene in front of me. Hang on a second, this wasn’t right…who are you? Where’s Anthony? Which is what I blurted out. (Not the who are you, but where’s Anthony?) He sold up and we have taken over…*gasp!*…oh, I meekily said and muttered something about a latte and I would sit in the back. Sitting there mulling over what I had just been told, I phoned Mr Chocolate straight away and told him…*gasp!* He did what?!

Our favourite local cafe owner had sold and up and buggered off. Not a word, not a whisper and as I sat there trying to gather some thoughts, I was gutted. Mr Chocolate was gutted…The Monkeys would be gutted. Why? Not because I was a daily cafe frequenter and should have put up a little plaque in my honour on a chair, but because we genuinely loved the guy. He made the cafe.

Simple, tasty food, small setting. People came back because Anthony made you smile, he remembered your name. He knew what you drank. He was my foodie sounding board. The Monkeys adored him and would always run over and say hello regardless of whether we were buying anything. For 3 years this was our local. This was a place where I could study undisturbed for an hour sitting on one coffee, a place where my grandparents were introduced, Mr Chocolate and I had discussed any home issues at a back table, (when The Monkeys were being entertained elsewhere) milkshakes had been slopped by inexperienced child hands, biscuits handed out generously. It was OUR cafe and Anthony an important part of that sweet blend. THE important part of it.

But not any more. Two strangers stood before me, dishing out coffees and explaining the changes they had made to people coming and asking where Anthony was.

This got me thinking….How important are cafes within our community. For inner city living, the cafe culture is alive and strong. Weekends are full of streetside cafes, takeaway coffees a must and many a meal taken up in cafe. These cafes serve as meeting places, appealing to the family for a special treat out, friends meeting up, and singles seeking some alone time. With the absence of backyards for many inner city living people, this is a way of life. For many, if you are living in a small household like a flat in the city, you can be quite restricted with space. As our urban population increases, so will that high density living and lack of space.

If you want to go some where else, the options aren’t huge. The park, a bar, the beach or a cafe. I do my fair share of parks and beach, bars don’t appeal, so for a little me time now and again that hour in a cafe is gold. Pure gold.

There is something really inviting about going somewhere, where you are greeted warmly by name. Your coffee is being made without having said a word, and the conversation is easy. It’s hard to find that. It’s almost like an extension of your home. For many of my friends who live in the area and all living in 2 bedroom apartments with kids, these cafes are utilised frequently. Whether it be a place to take small children to on a rainy day for a babycino, a meeting spot with friend or a place for some quiet contemplation without kids. Cafes in inner city living are used, utilised and loved. Having a warm friendly face to greet you as you come in makes the experience. That cafe space for me has been on many an occasion, a life saver.

So now as we go past our old cafe I have to deal with from Monkey Boy, Mama it makes me feel so sad that Anthony is gone. I want to talk about him all the time, it makes me feel so sad…

From Little Monkey, ANThatttiii…ANThatttiii!! With small arms outstretched towards his cafe.

I know what you mean boys, I feel the same way.

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16 thoughts on “The importance of cafes in local community city living.

  1. know the feeling- we had our favourite Japanese restaurant that we went to weekly in Slurry Hills and for 6 years we went there… from first few dates to moving in together, showing off the engagement ring, bragging about the wedding, bringing in ‘the bump’, bringing in the baby (and the owner happily taking baby out the back into the kitchen to show her off to the chefs- then insisting on ‘babysitting’ her whilst we ate….. moved North– moving back and found a sign on the door…. our favourite restaurant and waitstaff had closed up shop the week before. Permanently. It stung…. I still trawl the internet looking for the owner to see if she’s set up shop elsewhere….

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  2. That is sad! I guess I can understand him not saying anything – in the commercial realms of business, you can’t afford to lose customers before a sale goes through. But it’s a shame you’ve lost touch with a friend, though it’s entirely possibly you’ll find him again one day – much as we did Tony at La Casa.

    I do understand though – we have a similar relationship with our local shopkeepers and also our suppliers at the markets, and we’d be very sad if any of them moved on!

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  3. It is so true. We used to live inner city (pre kids) and even then it was a big part of our lives. We would frequent the same cafe, every Sunday for breakfast and a lazy morning drinking coffee, making life plans and reading the paper. We knew the cafe owners by name, they knew us and exactly what we would order. They knew what our holiday plans were, or how busy we were at work. When we moved away..it was one of the first things I truly found I missed.

    Now, living on the mornington peninsula, I have built up relationships with people in customer service based jobs – but my besties are now the ladies who work at Woolworths…shows how much I get out and about!!

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  4. It was probably the hardest decision (Anthony) has made in his life…running a business isn’t easy..(from my own experience)…greeting his customer with a smile and seeing your smile each day and knowing the locals is probably what kept him going…it would have been harder to say goodbye…I’m sure for whatever reason he closed up shop…he’s missing you guy’s just as much!

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  5. A sad and very thought provoking post Brydie, and one I definitely agree with you about on the point of these places being an important part of the community. We don’t have the kids or live inner city, but we have frequented our share of coffee shops/cafes, getting to know and love the owners and the experience. But we have also seen many times, the same thing happen. We have wondered often why the new owners see fit to “fix something that isn’t broken”!!!! only to see it all go downhill when they attempt to make it into something completely different, and the regulars drift away or the cafe ends up closing. I suppose they are only trying to make a go of it in their own way, but I’ve never understood why they don’t see the reasons it was a good going concern in the first place, and try to keep things happening with a semblance of the old goodness.
    Phew! Sorry for such a rant! :))

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  6. I felt abandoned when the two clerks in my bulk store quit at the same time. Who were these other ladies and where were my friends? I almost quit going (although they DO have the best price on bread flour.)
    Tell your Monkey boys that Anthony is missing them, too- because I’m sure he is- and keep encouraging them to interact with the new owners. They may be even more special tan you think , right now. 🙂

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  7. Brydie, my sentiments are so similar. I felt exactly the same when my local coffee shop, just a short 2 min walk from my apartment packed up & left without a simple goodbye, farewell, seeya-later! Until reading your post, I’d begun wondering at his betrayal.., yep…, I felt betrayed that he didn’t quietly tell us & was wondering at my reaction…., I mean this couple were just our coffee shop…, but they made you feel like great friends. I know of course the commercial side of things is important & I’m sure he wanted all his old customers to continue under the new management, but walking past there the other day I saw hardly anyone I used to say a warm cheerio to there, the coffee is awful ‘under new management’ & the whole darn situation has upset so many of ‘the locals’. So, yes agree with all you say & I’m glad you’ve brought up this subject, our local coffee shop is a very important place for city dwellers.

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    • Are there many others in your local area Anna? Could you find a new local?…I strayed to another one last Friday to see if I could find some magic, absolutely nothing…until they played a cd that I hadn’t heard for 10 years but loved. I decided to give them a second go on that premises 🙂

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  8. We have a distinct lack of good cafes in our area. It is a real shame because, as you say, cafes can play an integral part in developing and maintaining a sense of community. I am sad for you that Anthony has deserted you. Nothing worse than losing a friend. With time you may be able to establish a similar level of understanding with the new owners? I am sure they would love your business! x

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  9. Feel for you totally – this has happened to us so many times now. I always feel personally affronted and let down “but what about me?” Always hard to remember the world doesn’t revolve around me I find!

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