Café reaches out to locals

Café reaches out to locals

By Marco Holden Jeffery

It’s been a common theme across the country this year: the toughest times can often bring people closer.

Sarah May was drawn back into close quarters with her family by the pandemic, working alongside them at Harbour Coffee House, and now she wants to share that sense of community with the people of Docklands.

“Our previous customer base was largely workers, and obviously a lot of people have stopped coming to work and are staying at home,” she said.

“We really want to engage with the local community and change the image of the business.”

Harbour Coffee House was founded 10 years ago by Sarah’s parents Noel and Mary, and along with her siblings Sarah spent her early years helping out in the cafe before moving on to her own career in hospitality.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out earlier this year, the cafe was quick to close out of concern for the health of its workers and customers.

“Mum is from Wuhan, and from all the stories she was hearing from back home she was worried about the repercussions of staying open,” Sarah said.

The cafe closed completely for four months in which time Sarah, alongside her brother William, decided to reinvent the business as not just a place to get a coffee but a community hub for Docklands locals.

“We really want to get a better picture of what it’s like for people in Docklands, living and working from home, and what people miss about their hospitality services that they can no longer access,” she said.

The cafe was considering expanding its offerings from coffee and takeaway lunch to include delivery, preorders for meals, essential packages and hosting collaborations with artists.

But for Sarah it was important to hear what the community wanted - she was planning a survey of locals on their needs and their ideas for creating a connective focal point for Docklands during lockdown.

“If we provided fruit and vegetable packs that we bought from the market, for example, people could come to us to pick them up - and that’s an excuse to come to the coffee shop and have that connection with the community,” she said.

Working alongside her brother and parents, Sarah had appreciated the time spent with her family and the different skills each of them brought to the table.

“It can be a bit stressful, we’re all very different people - but for the pandemic we’ve all come together and become a lot closer as a family,” she said.

After a period being closed and a second lockdown, Sarah recognised it would be hard to for Harbour Coffee House to stand out, but felt they were resilient enough to evolve with the times.

“Honestly I think this is a real big test for hospitality - the market itself is really changing, whether that’s going online or offering delivery services,” she said.

“I’m hoping that if we really focus on what we can provide people at home, we can ride it through.”

Harbour Coffee House is located at 2/198 Harbour Esplanade. To take the survey, email Sarah at [email protected]

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