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I Used to Run 5 Cafés in NYC but Moved to DSM USA to Create Something Bigger and Better

I Used to Run 5 Cafés in NYC but Moved to DSM USA to Create Something Bigger and Better

November 3, 2017

Image courtesy of Iris22 Productions. 

The path to Downtown Des Moines (DSM) has been an interesting one. I was born in London, England, and raised in Melbourne, Australia. I started working at 18 as a busboy at a busy inner-city nightclub. This position progressed into bar tending which later led to nightclub management. After five years, I moved to cafés where I trained as a barista working for some of the pioneers in the modern café industry in Melbourne.

I moved to New York City in 2008 where I took a position as manager of a coffee shop in New York's bustling SoHo neighborhood. Having a wealth of café experience, I saw a gap in the market and opened my first business, Milk Bar, in Brooklyn. That led to the purchase of a second coffee shop in Manhattan's Lower East Side, followed by the opening of a third one in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn.

Prior to the birth of our daughter, my wife and I decided that moving to DSM, where Whitney was born and raised, and where her family still resides, was the best place to begin our new life as a family, raise our daughter, and open a café similar to what we had in New York City, but bigger and better.

Moving Back to DSM USA

From the moment we landed in DSM we began to search for the perfect space for our café. We saw many spaces that just didn’t feel right. Too new, too clean, too perfect, a blank box that had no real old bones. And then we checked out Gray’s Landing. The project at 300 SW 5th, which was soon to be Harbach Lofts, had all the characteristics we were looking for. Exposed brick, original beams, high ceilings, historically preserved aspects that were kept intact to give the space a warm feel, which also lent itself nicely to our fresh and modern design aesthetic.

The loft’s owners allowed us to be free with the space, they were extremely supportive of our vision, and were truly proud to see what it became once completed.

DSM-based companies RDG and Beal Derkenne Construction helped with the design and construction respectively. The entire space was custom designed, from the bar to the tables, banquette seating to the wood slats partitioning off the mezzanine, it really was exactly what we envisioned.

Opening St. Kilda

The space became St. Kilda — a full-service Australian-style café and bakery in one of Downtown DSM’s up-and-coming neighborhoods serving breakfast and lunch all day, and dinner beginning in November 2017.

For us, being in the developing southern end of Downtown, known as Gray's Landing, has allowed us to be our own entity. We wanted to be secluded enough to have a tucked away feel to the café, yet not too far from where the action of Downtown is.

Having residents nearby was also a draw for us, and we hope that as more and more apartments and amenities are built, the foot traffic will become greater in and around Downtown DSM.

Located between Downtown DSM and Gray’s Lake, Gray’s Landing is DSM’s newest neighborhood and it’s growing fast. For more information on Downtown Des Moines’ neighborhoods, click here.