According to Geoff Bannister, owner of Pyrmont’s hip-hop cafe Mug Life (he’s also behind another Pyrmont joint, Dr. Dough Donuts), eight nearby bars, restaurants and cafes have shut down in the past two months. And though his business is at 50 per cent growth in its third year of operation, he tells Broadsheet, “you can never be complacent”. That lack of complacency shows at Mug Life – which serves nine kinds of milk, offers free internet and wireless phone charging, and has a yearly coffee membership.

The latest way it’s diversifying? By cleaning your sneakers.

“Being in Pyrmont, which we regard as the tech, digital and media hub of Sydney, it’s very, very rare to see a customer wearing a suit. The work wear is very much casual with a cool pair of kicks,” Bannister tells Broadsheet.

So, Mug Life has partnered with Sneaker Laundry, a kick-cleaning company founded in Melbourne in 2017 that has since opened a second outlet in Paramatta. In its short life, it’s worked with Nike, A$AP Ferg, Lil Wayne, Puma and Kid Ink.

Bannister approached the start-up earlier this year after a friend in Melbourne was tagged in one of its Facebook posts. He figured the sneaker-cleaning business was something he, his staff and the customers could all use, and the Sneaker Laundry team agreed that a hip-hop cafe and sneakers were a great brand fit that could expand their clientele. Not everyone can make it out to Paramatta for a regular sneaker clean, so they brought the concept to Pyrmont.

Drop off your trainers at Mug Life and within 8 to 10 working days you’ll have them back, sparkling like new. Choose from a basic upper and mid-sole clean; a full exterior clean, including laces; or “the lot”, with a full-shoe deep clean. Add-on services include repaints and de-yellowing.

“The stories in the media are of the daily financial struggles of retail and hospitality, with the unfortunate trend in Sydney being the recent amount of closures,” Bannister says. “You continuously need to look at ways to maximise your business footprint, be it trading hours, available space and thinking outside of the norm.

“We trade 365 days a year and recognise every square metre of footprint or minute of the day you are paying rent. Just take a look at shopping centres, which are – and will become more – service based. You need to think outside of the norm and what additional services you can provide to your customers.”

Bannister says that 80 per cent of customers using the service are new to the cafe.

“It’s been win-win for both brands so far, and I would love to see [the concept] expand to another shared space for both brands in Sydney or another state.”

Sneaker Laundry’s services are now available at Mug Life cafe, 308 Harris Street, Pyrmont.