10/06/2010 - 00:00

Pony Express O pulls the right rein

10/06/2010 - 00:00

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The right location is what Garrett Walsh says has made him successful in his left-of-centre business ventures. Emily Morgan reports.

Pony Express O pulls the right rein

MOST people would walk past old stables, hidden among parking lots and sheds in the back alleys of West Perth and just keep on walking; but Garrett Walsh’s curiosity was piqued.

He saw potential for the property to be developed into, of all things, a quirky coffee shop similar to his two square metre venture in Fremantle, Blink; and so, four months ago, Pony Express O was launched.

“When I found this stable, I thought this has got to be a coffee spot, Melbourne, down a lane,” Mr Walsh says of the potential he saw in the building.

As Pony Express O’s only promotional material suggests, the place is for people who like an obscure location, “for those who like their coffee down a laneway, through a car park, in a stable”.

“We needed something that is tucked away and a pleasant surprise. I like setting up businesses and finding good locations,” Mr Walsh says of his eye for interesting ventures, having started Perth’s first mobile coffee shop and Nedlands’ Café Greco and Hot Box.

So what makes a good location?

According to the hospitality veteran, it is somewhere outside of the square – for reasons other than offering Perth customers the laneway lifestyle of Melbourne – enabling him to advertise quality through an alternative approach.

“People find me and think ‘I know I will get a good coffee’ because in Melbourne and Sydney if you see a place like that you know they are thinking outside the box, so you know that it will be good,” Mr Walsh says.

The theory has so far proved right. Pony Express O is attracting word-of-mouth trade and clientele from the surrounding boutique businesses and banks.

“This business still needs to grow, there are still people who want to discover this,” he says.

And while business is solid so far, Mr Walsh says he didn’t move in to West Perth to steal customers from the area’s existing cafes.

“My competition has a mortgage and a family. I am not here to steal business, I am just here to offer what I do and if people like what I do, they will choose,” he says.

It isn’t just the back-alley locations that have made Mr Walsh’s business ventures successful.

His one-man show is all about speed.

Customers pay via a drop box for coins or the slot in the bench for notes, paper cups are the order of the day so as to eliminate cleaning time, he has two coffee machines to move between in busy periods, and the coffee shop is exactly that – only coffee, no food.

“If you can’t come through with service and speed, you just look like an idiot,” Mr Walsh says.

Creating a community feel at Pony Express O has been vital.

“It is all about having that relationship with your customer. It’s the whole package, being recognised as a customer, you know what they drink, it’s the whole ‘makes you feel nice and part of it’,” he says.

“That’s why I reckon people need to get rid of their coffee machines at home and get out. It’s a really big part of being in a community. You have your local café.”

The positive effects of this, he says, are beyond question.

“Office guys say ‘we have a coffee machine’. Well get rid of it, ’cause to get them out of their space, away from their computer to come down, sit, chat, have a coffee, they will go back and be more productive,” Mr Walsh says.

For now, he plans to stick to his pony shed operation and sees a bright future for the Perth coffee scene.

“Coffee in a couple of years is going to be incredible; they are changing the machines and what you can extract. It will be better for the consumer, big time. Coffee is exciting in Perth,” he says.

 

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