23/01/2008 - 22:00

Low-key opening for new Leederville cafe

23/01/2008 - 22:00


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The owner of Leederville coffee haven Oxford 130, Stuart Lofthouse, is to open a new, groovy coffee spot.

Low-key opening for new Leederville cafe

The owner of Leederville coffee haven Oxford 130, Stuart Lofthouse, is to open a new, groovy coffee spot.

But instead of replicating the successful Oxford 130 in another market, Mr Lofthouse has taken up some space straight across the street.

The things that make Oxford 130 work, the coffee and simple food, will be replicated in the new venue, which is being developed in the former Greens & Co supermarket site.

The big difference, however, is the design. The venue, which Mr Lofthouse has decided to call Greens, has a total surface area of 670 square metres, much bigger than Oxford 130.

The space will be kept open and filled with colourful couches and low chairs, with seating for 200.

The high ceilings are filled with about 50 low-hanging white round paper lampshades, while the walls are completely covered with movie and concert posters.

There is a DJ booth in the top right corner of the room.

Mr Lofthouse, who has a passion for music, says he intends to spend some time up there playing records.

And turning an old supermarket into a colourful, open space to chill out has not cost the earth, he says, with the renovation coming in at less than $20,000.

Greens is both a coffeehouse and a meeting place, he says.

Mr Lofthouse, who established Oxford 130 about 14 years ago, says he is more of a big-picture man, driven by the design and a desire to get the look and feel of a space right, rather than the specific nuts and bolts of the business.

“I have a very large electric train collection,” he says.

“I don’t actually like the trains that much, but what I enjoy is actually building the layout and creating a scene for the trains. It’s similar with my work; what I like is the fun of setting up the big idea rather than the specifics.”

Mr Lofthouse, who obtained a five-year lease for Greens in March last year, told Gusto he has wanted to start a business on the site ever since Oxford 130’s first day of trade in May 1994 because of the unique large space it offered.

But he has no intention of turning the new venue into a licensed restaurant; rather, he is happy to simply sell coffee from both places.

A busy coffee spot on the Oxford Street restaurant strip, Oxford 130’s success has largely evolved over time through word of mouth, Mr Lofthouse says.

He intends to market Greens in a similar fashion, with the venue to sell itself.

“We want to take our time with Greens and don’t want to do a grand opening,” he says.

Until a few weeks ago, the large front shop windows of Greens, at 123 Oxford Street, were completely blacked out. But as soon as the windows were cleared, Mr Lofthouse says, there hasn’t been a day without people sticking their noses on the window or someone coming in asking for a coffee, even though the tables and chairs are still upside down and live wires are hanging off the roof.

“The locals come in and keep asking me ‘when are you opening?’. We’ve opened for a couple of hours last week to check what we had to fix,” he says.

But it won’t be long until the doors are flung open.

And while many others in the hospitality industry are struggling to find enough staff, Mr Lofthouse says he has had little trouble recruiting for Greens.

A big sign stretching the entire width of Greens’ windows was put up late last year for two months with the words ‘Staff wanted, no experience required’ and a phone number.

“There is no staff shortage in Perth,” he says.

“We have 80 people to choose from thanks to a sign that was up there for two months.”

Mr Lofthouse is looking to recruit a total of 45 employees and there will be, on average, seven staff per shift.

Greens will be open from 7am to midnight seven days a week, and closed on public holidays.

Mr Lofthouse ran 147 Noodle in Leederville from 1996 to 2000, which is now Monza. He also worked with the Matilda Bay Brewery Company for eight years.

Interestingly, his inspiration to open Oxford 130 came from a frustrated visit to Leederville.

He turned up in the late morning and was unable to order a simple serving of toast. Sure, it wasn’t breakfast time, but he wanted some toast.

He glanced at a “to let” sign in an old bookshop and decided to open his own coffee and tea house, Oxford 130, where toast is available any time of the day.


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