Breaking New Grounds: Milk Bar and Brunswick

One major influence in the recent onset of third-wave coffee culture is that of Australian coffee culture. While Americans generally chug coffee to fuel through their workdays, Australians see coffee as a lifestyle—something to consume mindfully, and something that should be well-crafted. Thanks to the recent importation of these ideals, you won’t have to fly across the globe to experience this coffee culture—especially in sister coffee shops Milk Bar and Brunswick, branded as quintessentially Australian cafes from the espresso to the service.

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Kylie Sachs and her husband purchased Milk Bar and one Brunswick location after being longtime, loyal Milk Bar customers. In early November of 2017, the pair decided to open a second Milk Bar location on their own. Milk Bar’s name is a nostalgic nod to the Australian counterpart of the familiar New York bodega, dubbed a “milk bar” due to its purpose as a place to get all of your basic necessities, such as milk. (Although most of the milk you’d find here is in the form of microfoam and worked into flat whites or lattes.)

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Besides the quality of coffee, the owners also strive to uphold the utmost Australian hospitality—both with their customers and with their staff. “We want to make sure that as soon as someone walks in they’re greeted,” says Kylie. Milk Bar and Brunswick offer sit-down service—one of the most distinctive features of Australian cafes. Customers are provided a level of service, guidance, and personal rapport that American customers generally don’t expect from a coffee shop. Staying true to the Australian experience, these cafes aren’t just pit stops to refuel and crunch deadlines, but places to enjoy good food, drink and company. Kylie also tries to hire individuals who not only can make “brilliant flat whites” but also can execute these friendly, personable interactions with their customers. Baristas usually stay at one location, so that each cafe has a set of smiling and familiar faces.

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“Sometimes I feel like I have to be at all three locations at once. Just because I should be,” Kylie  says. “Owner presence matters. It matters to the team and to the customers. It’s an indication of care…If we have a happy team, we have happy customers!” She regularly checks up on her stores to ensure that everything is in order and everyone is okay, as well as to foster “points of connection that lack in the digital world.” Kylie often fills in shifts for her sick employees, and one time a past employee walked by and stopped in to help out. “I really like working at this place,” he had said to her. “It’s fun!” Kylie recognizes that front-line presence is instrumental to her vision for Milk Bar and Brunswick. “If the ice machine is flooding at midnight, that is going to be you taking care of it,” she says. “You have to recognize that with freedom comes a lot of responsibility.” flatwhite.jpg

 

This was a freedom that Kylie chose to seek when leaving her career as a venture capitalist and CFO to start her own business. “I didn’t know much about the coffee world,” she says. “But I can pour a decent flat white now! It’s so cool to be learning new skills in your 40s.” As per the traditional Australian cafe concept, these cafes certainly provide the community with more than caffeine. They’ve given Kylie new insights, new purpose, and a new lifestyle. They’ve given her staff a family, and for her customers they offer a rare chance to sit back, reflect, and take a moment to enjoy life.