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PASHA D’Silva is typical of the new wave of coffee shop operators entering the Perth retail market.

He recently took over Trinity Arcade’s Grind Espresso Bar and has plans to open a further two coffee shops – including a $250,000 five-star bar in the foyer of Allendale Square.

But Mr D’Silva isn’t the only one with grand coffee plans for the CBD, according to NSC Corporate leasing agent Jeremy Doulton, who says Perth’s retail market is hot for coffee. 

“There is so much interest in coffee shops at the moment,” he says.

“We usually see a bit of excitement during spring and before summer but there’s more activity this year. We are seeing a shortage of space, particularly in the malls.

“The activity this year is nowhere near previous years. It’s like the coffee culture has landed in Perth.”

Lease Equity managing director Jim Tsagalis says while Western Australia is yet to see the level of franchise activity taking place on the eastern seaboard, the number of independent retail operations is expected to increase.

“There is a wave across Australia and we don’t have the number of chain operators in WA yet but we have a well developed coffee palate in place,” he says.

“In Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria the likes of Coffee Club, Hudson Coffee and Starbucks are expanding and the independents are lifting. In Perth we will see a whole lot of Gloria Jean’s, Caffissimo and, Coffee Club open up.

“We’re going to see more of that. If we look at the national statistics, while per capita our consumption isn’t as high as the Europeans or the United States, our growth per capita exceeds them.

“We’re going to see transformation in areas. We will see Rokeby Road and Bay View Terrace, which already have a number of operators, have more operators. But more shops are going to open around the CBD, along the terrace and the malls.”

Mr D’Sylva is one new entrant who says his focus on professional coffee roasting and presentation is already making a strong impression with customers of Grind Espresso Bar.

He’s refitted it and included a standing bar area, similar to espresso bars in Italy, and has produced a blend of coffee he one day hopes to export.

“Last week we had an Italian couple walk in and stand at the bar. They ordered a double espresso and in one gulp, two gulps it was gone,” Mr D’Sylva says.

“The gentleman said to me they were on their honeymoon and that they worked for illy [coffee]. He said this was the best espresso they had had in Australia.”

A former investment banker, Mr D’Sylva has been looking for a suitable site in Perth to launch his coffee business after gaining invaluable experience when completing his MBA.

“I identified this site and it had lots of value and it was being run into the ground. I’ve come in and bought top of the range equipment and incentivised my staff,” he says.

“I was an investment banker in Hong Kong and September 11 hit Hong Kong very hard; it’s such a big financial centre.

“So I decided to do my MBA in Sydney and Toronto. I could have then gone to Tokyo and worked in banking but I wanted to come home to Perth. In one of my finance classes I looked at the profitability of the coffee industry and, after two years of doing my MBA and five years in investment banking, profitability is the driving element.”

Mr D’Sylva says he plans to open a further two espresso bars in Perth and one in Sydney.

“I’ve got a $250,000 concept for the lobby of Allendale Square to put a five-star espresso bar in there,” he says.

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