Listening to Carl Wessel, co-owner of Deluxe Coffeeworks, it sounds as if their successful coffee roasting business has just evolved over time, with little business planning and marketing, its satisfied loyal customers doing the word of mouth marketing and being repeat buyers. Deluxe Coffeeworks, known for its tiny outlets in Church Street in Cape Town and next to Reubens in Franschhoek, has opened its new roastery in The Yard in Gardens, in a building which will also house its head office.
It was difficult finding the new Deluxe Coffeeworks outlet, being on Roodehek Street (and not Roodehoek Terrace, where the German Club is), which connects Buitenkant and Hope Streets. As no signage nor street number (6) is visible, one assumes that an opening down an alley must be it. Parking is almost non-existent in the street, and one should park on Buitenkant Street. One walks through the alley, without signage guiding one, to enter the spacious Deluxe Coffeeworks with its massive coffee bar counter, made from a solid piece of bluegum, and matching wooden bar chairs, putting an alien tree to good use, Carl said. Olaf Nel was the architect and interior designer.
Against the wall is the trademark piece of ‘art’, which is a ‘deconstructed’ motorcycle. There are motorcycles standing around inside the warehouse-style building, appearing to be a passion shared by most of the staff. In Franschoek the space is tiny, and they have a ‘deconstructed’ bicycle on the wall, while in the Church Street branch it is a ‘deconstructed’ Vespa. Carl and his colleagues serve clients, and he was more than willing to serve a frothy cappuccino, even though I was under the impression that this was not encouraged (it is Truth and Origin that are strict about serving a cappuccino as a flat white). Carl told me that he had got tired of his job in the film business, and his partner Judd Francis, a New Zealander who had been involved in the coffee business while he lived there and who joined Origin when he came to Cape Town, got together, and started Deluxe Coffeeworks in Church Street. After being quiet for 18 months (there was no marketing that one was aware of, and they are not visible on Social Media either), their business suddenly took off, with more and more restaurants serving their coffee, and more customers coming into their coffee shop, to taste their unbelievably low priced coffee – they charged R10 a cup for the first year, and now charge R12, by far the cheapest cup of quality coffee in Cape Town.
I asked about serving food, and Carl laughed, saying that his gentleman’s agreement with Judd in running their business partnership had one rule only – no food! However, on a Friday they pick up 20 croissants from Jason’s on Bree Street, and the first twenty customers get them for free. The alley has tables and chairs, and a central food preparation area, which started off as the Dog’s Bollocks, serving only 50 hamburger portions per evening, said to be the best hamburgers in Cape Town. Nigel Wood, the owner of the whole building, of which Deluxe is using more than half of the space, has attracted two new day-time food businesses, serving ‘deconstructed’ breakfasts, in that one pays for each individual ingredient (R7 per egg, R12 for bacon, R8 for sausage and for baked beans), which is served on a ‘hubcap’ (flatbread, costing R10). From 12h00 one can order sandwiches, being a selection of world-famous mainly American-style sandwiches, it was explained (I had not heard of any of them before, but then I have not been to the USA in years). Costing R45 each, one can order Geno’s Philly Cheese Steak (from Philadelphia), or Lo Priore Bro’s Meatball Hero (from New York) sandwiches, for example. Soup costs R25 with vegetables and R30 with meat. Gilbert Plumbers is in the front of the building, and may vacate sometime, which will make more space available for related businesses.
A brightly painted coffee roaster, twice as big as the one in the Church Street branch, stands in a corner, and bags of green coffee beans lie on the floor. The beans have been sourced from Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Burundi, and Nicaragua via a local importer up to now, but it appears that they will source and import directly soon. They will soon offer a grinding service too. It is the ‘optimum roasting’ of the beans, small quantities at a time to keep the coffee as fresh as possible, the creation of special blends, and the method of preparation that makes one coffee better than another, Carl said. They prepare all coffees off a double espresso base, including cappuccino, flat white, Americano, Macchiato, Decaffeinated, Latte and Piccolo Latte (the last three cost R15). Restaurants serving Deluxe coffees include Jason’s, Power & Glory, Clarke’s, Red Sofa, Pulp Kitchen, La Mouette, La Boheme, Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, Fork, Superette, El Burro, Van Hunk’s, Café Mozart, Skinny Legs & All, Tokara, Café Paradiso, Maria’s, KOS, Don Pedro, Yours Truly, Pezula Resort in Knysna, Hola Café in Plettenberg Bay, and more.
I was the only female customer at Deluxe Coffeeworks, and it has a male persona with all the motorcycle ‘props’, yet I felt at home, and enjoyed chatting to Carl, getting information from him first-hand. He says they are not good at technology, explaining their low key Social Media presence, and Carl almost seems surprised that they are doing so well. They have a 20% share in the Franschhoek branch, which is co-owned by Steve Grey and Jo Sinfield. They were invited to participate in setting up a coffee roastery in the foyer of two Lux* group hotels, one each in Mauritius and Maldives, which hotel group is managed by Paul Jones, who once worked for Sol Kerzner. This has led to the likelihood of a next project with Harvey Nichols, which company wants to set up coffee shops in Kuwait, and then expand throughout the Middle East. They also have a partnership with a similar business called Brew Coffeeworks in Istanbul, and the Deluxe staff is regularly flying to that city to work there for short stints.
The success of Deluxe Coffeeworks clearly is focus, doing what they do well and doing it with passion. Signage is due to come next month. They plan to print a fun little paper, which will offer Soduko puzzles. Not only is the price excellent value, explaining its popularity, but its coffee tastes good too.
Deluxe Coffeeworks, The Yard, 6 Roodehek Street, off Buitenkant Street, Gardens. Cell 0826815740. www.deluxecoffeeworks. co.za Twitter:@CarlWessel. Also in Franschhoek, and Church Street, Cape Town. Monday – Friday 7h00 – 17h00, Saturday 9h00 – 14h00. Twitter:@Yard_CT
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage