You're running to the station, you know you’re pushing your luck, but before you’ve even made it to the gates, you can see your train pulling out. Good thing there’s a great cafe just nearby – because if you’ve missed your train you might as well perk your morning up right? But is it just for those of us sprinting for (and missing) the train that some of the city’s best cafes are popping up trackside? Or is there more to it than just scooping up delayed commuters in need of a pick me up?
“The train station was a critical component to the equation of opening up in Stanmore,” says Adriano Matteoni, the man originally behind Paper Cup cafe right near the Stanmore train station in Sydney’s inner west. Matteoni has a long history of setting up cafes adjacent to public transport and he believes that location is a key part of creating a successful cafe. Sure, the coffee might be important, but it’s not necessarily going to be enough if you don’t have access to a reliable audience.
“There are many advantages of being near a train station,” says Matteoni, such as free all day parking, passing foot traffic with increased volume twice a day (“which is great advertising regardless of whether or not they stop for a coffee”), customers who choose to begin their day at the cafe before they head into busy CBD and, finally, other interested parties (“baristas and coffee nerds”) can easily commute to the cafe and share cafe culture and business.
Of course, there’s also the added bonus that when trains are delayed or if people just happen to miss their ride, then “there’s a high probability of them coming over for a coffee”. That’s a whole lot of benefits.
Angus Nicol of Swallow Coffee Traders in Rockdale couldn’t agree more. “Being near a train station was definitely one of our criteria when we set up Swallow Coffee Traders, but it’s obviously hard to find these sorts of locations, because the RailCorp dudes hold every bit of land around it. So these places don’t come up often.”
Finding a trackside location was important enough to Nicol and his business partner that they looked at a number of different suburbs before hitting on Rockdale in Sydney’s south. “We looked at a few different train stations including Caringbah and we didn’t know much about Rockdale except that it was a huge a transport hub,” he says. “We’ve marketed the whole business around the train station location, and the demographic changes so much through the day that we have to maximise that morning peak hour – all the medium to high income earners hopping on the train for the CBD. It’s all about the morning rush.”
And other types of transport just don’t cut it the way a train station location does. “With our business model, we had to get massive foot traffic and the only other ways to get that were in shopping centres and pedestrian malls where the rent is sky high.”
So the train station was the perfect answer. For Matteoni (currently working on Paper Cup cafes and concepts in Glasgow), train station cafes are the way of the future.
“I believe that Sydney will follow Tokyo, in that everything stems from the train stations. Council need to encourage development of residential and commercial spaces close – or in Tokyo's situation – on top of train stations. It makes practical sense to live very close to the station and conduct business near the train station, as it puts a simple end to all the congestion of driving to the city.”
And we can only say that we’re noticing more of it in Sydney every day.
Our pick of the trackside cafes:
1. Paper Cup
Tucked into the back streets of Stanmore and built in what was a tiny storage room at the back of a bottle shop, this little café pulls a big crowd thanks to the nearby Stanmore train station and the excellent coffee.
157/161 Cambridge Street, Stanmore
2. Swallow Coffee Traders
With its beautiful swallow motif (and now sister café TopHat Coffee Merchants in Clovelly), Swallow Coffee Traders brought great coffee to Rockdale, scooping up commuters in south Sydney.
Shop 1/ 1-7 Tramway Arcade, Rockdale
3. The Counter
Close enough to the station to snag passing traffic, this eclectic little café on Audley Street gets its fair share of passing foot traffic bound for Petersham train station.
96 Audley Street, Petersham
4. Pablo & Rusty’s
Almost right on the train tracks, this outlet for Pablo & Rusty’s in-house beans has a view to the tracks and a sunny corner position that is bustling even on weekends – never mind just for the work-a-day commute.
1 St. Johns Avenue, Gordon
The name is inspired by the trackside location and you certainly can’t miss the reference when you can hear the trains rattling by in Lewisham.
Shop 1, 3 Victoria Street, Lewisham
7. Goblin Cafe
Great coffee, excellent breakfasts and a cute mushroom and goblin feel, this café catches people for a feed as well as a caffeine fix by the station in Summer Hill.
6 Sloan Street, Summer Hill
8. PS Café
Another one with an excellent corner position, a carefully collected interior feel and serving the commuters of Dulwich Hill train station.
245 Wardell Road, Dulwich Hill
9. Element 6
On the local shopping strip right opposite the train station, this cute and cosy little café gets the thumbs-up from West Ryde train commuters.
65 Ryedale Road, West Ryde