A couple of Saturdays ago, KereKere South quietly began doing business at the Boyd Community Hub in Southbank.

Serving great food and coffee, the café provides training and long-term employment opportunities for young people facing barriers to work and redistributes some of its profits to a range of causes.

Sound familiar? KereKere began as a coffee cart at Melbourne University in 2007, soon becoming a purpose-built kiosk that serves about 800 customers a day. KereKere is named after a Fijian custom, which means to give without expectation and founder James Murphy concedes that he’s challenging the “winner takes all mentality” that permeates most approaches to business.

There’s not a heap of space to work with at the new digs, but the design by Nest Architects and graphics by Work Art Life makes the café feel roomy and cheerful. Park yourself at the central communal table, a unique corner bench seat, or one of the three large tables at the front of the building.

Murphy is humble about the menu – a short but pleasing choice of sandwiches, breakfast items and a few sweets. “I doubt people will cross town for it!” he says, adding that he expects many of his customers will be those working in and visiting the Boyd cultural, arts and health hub.

Toasted sandwich number one is comfortingly familiar, with grandmother ham, cheddar and tomato, but it packs a punch thanks to aromatic Taka Tala chutney. Good stuff inside, Dench bread outside and a total bargain at $7.

Murphy understands the value of his customers, and knows the feel good factor alone won’t keep them coming back. He sums it up this way, “When you let your values hang out, people expect under performance. So you need to over perform.”

Hence the strong focus on ‘the art of coffee making’ (the course undertaken by KereKere trainees, who are referred by St Kilda Youth Services). New recruits work closely with experienced hospitality staff who nurture and encourage them as their skills grow, and trainee positions often become long-term work opportunities.

Coffee is KereKere’s own blend made by Syndicate, who tick both the fair trade and organic boxes. But on a chilly Melbourne winter day, it’s hard to go past the spiced lemon and ginger hot toddy.

When you purchase a coffee, you’re given a playing card which you use to nominate one of four causes: social, environmental, health or cultural. At the end of the month, $1000 of the cafe’s profits is split between the causes (which are nominated by the community and the staff.)

Murphy, although incredibly modest about the whole operation, acknowledges that it’s “a huge achievement to be able to do that, especially when you’re paying award wages”.

Just when it couldn’t get any better, there’s also a mini grocery store with eggs, Dench bread, muesli, butter, cheese, jams, tea, Bonsoy and other goodies for sale.

Worth crossing town for? We think so.

KereKere South
Boyd Community Hub
207 City Road, Southbank

Mon to Fri 7am–7pm
Sat 8am–4pm