If you’re a fan of a quality cup of coffee and a genuine ‘how do you do?” then you’ve probably already enjoyed a generous weekend brunch or nabbed a takeaway treat at Baffi & Mo on your way to work.
Here’s how Zac and Margarita came to be caffeinating Redfern and Waterloo and why they love being locals.
Hi Margarita, thanks for the chat. Seems like only yesterday but I think it was now six years ago we met at an open home when you were looking to buy property in our area?
Yes – it was when Zac and I moved from Victoria to NSW six years ago, and we were looking for a home to buy. That place we looked at wasn’t right for us, but our conversation with you that day about what we were ideally hoping to find uncovered we had grown up not far from each other and knew some people in common! You did ultimately find us our apartment here, but we also found a great friendship that has lasted.
Tell me about the cafe – how did you come to own Baffi & Mo Espresso?
We were looking for a business local to our home about 18 months ago, and we had been walking by and enjoying eating there for a while. We were both done with the stress and demands of our corporate careers and wanted to pursue our passion for food and community. It was something we were hoping to do in retirement, but the opportunity came up, so we grabbed it and have never looked back.
Did you have any experience in hospitality or cafes?
I didn’t – I was in retail for over 15 years and then IT as a Client Services Manager for 10 years. Zac was the NSW state manager for gaming at TABCORP, so he has the hospitality experience. We also owned a bakery, and while I never worked there, Zac loves baking so he worked alongside our head baker.
While I did not have any experience running a café, being good at a retail or hospitality job takes a lot of the same skills. I think you need to genuinely enjoy being around people for both. They both involve helping customers and providing them with what they are looking for, but the people skills also matter. People can feel when your friendliness and interest is genuine, and we love people and being part of our community.
Thinking of selling?
So why Redfern?
Well, obviously being close to home was a big drawcard, but that is not what we love about Redfern. This is one of those places where everyone knows each other and cares about each other – it is all about community. Roger the bootmaker brings me in something he has cooked almost every day, for example. I know the kids walking by, the other business owners and when I go shopping for my groceries, I run into people I know and we’ll stop for a chat, and I love that. Zac and I both grew up in these kinds of communities. We’ve also lived in places where everyone drives their car into the garage at night and no one really knows anyone. That just isn’t the right fit for us.
Have you seen plenty of that community spirit during COVID lockdowns?
So much! Two days after we bought Baffi & Mo Sydney went into its first lockdown, and it was very similar to what we are seeing now. People have definitely turned up, whether it is for a cup of coffee or a takeaway meal to show their support, or some come and buy something for someone who can’t afford it. I also think it is about keeping connections. Working from home is not as fun as it sounds, and people come to treasure getting out and that cup of coffee or a treat. And it’s nice to be around others even at a distance.
Even though I know people sometimes feel embarrassed if they walk by carrying a cup of coffee from somewhere else, we aren’t the kind of people or business that care about that. We love seeing all our local businesses being supported. And I know I like to go to different places for different things, so it makes sense my customers do too! At the end of the day, there are a lot of cafes and eateries in Redfern, and we strongly believe there is enough business for us all to succeed.
Well, I’ll definitely be popping in for a coffee and cake. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Margarita! Visit Baffi & Mo Espresso at 94 Redfern Street, Redfern.
Photo credit: Baffi & Mo Espresso website