Coffee and sneakers. It’s an unlikely combination but one that’s so far proven a winner for the trio behind Emporium’s Street Lab Specialty Coffee.

They’re shared obsessions for owners Nate Swindale, John Bartlet and Ethan Dou, who between them also share plenty of history. “We all go back a few years,” Swindale says. “Ethan had a cafe up on Brunswick Street; JB and I worked together at Fonzie Abbott Coffee Roasters, and then I went on to work at Wolff Coffee Roasters.

“Three friends, all in the same sort of stage of life, you know? We just wanted to work with good people and make coffee we like without being too uptight about it.”

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Great coffee is just the beginning. It’s the high-tops and sneakers gracing the walls – some of which are Dou’s (one collection is worth $15,000), all of which are for sale – that Swindale says people drop in every day just to check out. There’s also a decent collection of Star Wars memorabilia.

“There’s a father and son that come in every weekend and it’s really cute because the dad’s like, ‘I used to wear these shoes back when I was in high school,’ and the son’s like, ‘I want to wear these ones’,” Swindale says.

The rotating menu of beans – roasted off-site by Street Lab and sourced from Brazil, Ethiopia, Costa Rica and other coffee hotspots – is matched to a simple selection of pastries from Crust & Co., but will soon be joined by a crostini menu. “It’s going to be a side to have with your coffee, as opposed to being a cafe that sells coffee,” Swindale says.

Street Lab neatly plugs a hole in the not-quite-city, not-quite-suburban Emporium precinct at the northern end of Fortitude Valley. Tucked into one of the few tenancies with both street and car park frontage, its concrete floors and mixture of low and high rough hewn pallet-style tables exude an easy industrial cool. Light and airy, it’s the kind of space that invites both quiet solo coffee breakfasts and cheery morning-after debriefs.

Street Lab Specialty Coffee
Shop 1/1000A Ann St, Fortitude Valley
No phone

Mon to Fri 6.30am–5pm
Sat 8am–3pm