When Broadsheet first visited Squatters Collective in May last year, the site was still in its infancy.
“We thought it was going to be three months’ [work] and a few thousand dollars, when it’s been more like 18 months and a similar scale of dollars,” says Tim Morris. He and fellow co-founder Scott Giles exchange a nod and a strained chuckle.
We're back on-site with the pair, who are behind Juice Quest and Mischief Brew, respectively. Together they oversee the shared production facility in Underdale in Adelaide’s west – the collective home for several local beverage brands. And they've been busy.
Giles and Morris constructed the venue from scratch. They cut, welded, planed and finished every surface and structure, right down to the customised tap-and-keg system (more on that later).
The expansive site is also home to Rachel Rourke and Olivia Orchard of raw (unpasteurised) kombucha brand Gather Brewing, and Ben Rosenthal, Andy Erskine and Jeremey Wellington of BLK MRKT Coffee and its high-end sister brand Show Pony Coffee. Two more businesses – organic smoothie label Smooth Revolution and Mischief Brew’s “hot coffee” spin-off, Coffee Service Adelaide – also operate out of the venue, and are co-run by Giles and Morris.
We’re standing in the finished space, days out from its launch on November 9 when the public will be invited to taste all the products crafted on-site (along with mates The Tea Catcher and Nice Pickles) and meet their makers. “Bring down your flagon or your bags and get them filled up,” says Giles.
The site represents the merging of Squatters Collective’s two principal motivations: to craft delicious products sustainably and efficiently, and to continue enjoying the consumer engagement that’s brought them this far.
The space will open to the public twice a month on specified days. During the week it will provide a place for commercial clients to learn more about the products they retail.
Customer service is a big part of what Morris and Giles enjoy about operating independent businesses. It’s why Giles still drives the delivery van himself and why the pair regularly pops up at events around town.
“We’ve been dealing with our final customers for years and years, but now we’re exhausted by markets [and] all those things you have to do to get your product out there,” says Morris. “The opening of the cellar door allows those valued customers who have been with us for years to come in and have an interaction with us.”
Forming Squatters allowed them to capitalise on these connections and help other brands to develop. “That’s the magic in it. If we can share those relationships, we grow as a collective,” says Giles.
But the operation isn’t some free-love commune. Squatters Collective is a fully spec’d processing plant with a bottling line, cold room and defined work zones. Even custom-branded high-vis uniforms. “[We’re always focused on] how small businesses can work together to create efficiencies,” says Morris.
The pursuit of efficiency led the pair to engineer their own custom keg system, which allows cafes, restaurants and bars to serve some, or all, of the Squatters Collective brands side-by-side with minimal fuss, and in a condensed area. “We’ve spent a long time getting the technical aspects right, so we can be confident the products we are serving are not only amazing, but there are no kinks in the system,” Giles says.
Another benefit of having drinks available on tap is there’s virtually no wait time for the customer. And no wasteful packaging. Win win.
Beyond equipment and floor space, the producers of Squatters Collective share an ethos of promoting mutual growth. They bolster each other with the support and confidence to achieve greater things. Whether it’s advice, networks or delivery runs, they’re leveraging the benefits of community while maintaining independence. And there’s still room for further growth.
“We are currently in conversation with a couple of other well-known Adelaidian brands,” adds Giles. Watch this space.
Squatters Collective launches on November 9 and will be open from 10am to 3pm.
18 Vintage Road, Underdale
visits by appointment