Harry Buchanan (top left), one half of the Components Café team, grew up in Dorrigo with his 2 brothers, and at school’s end he decided the next phase of his life needed to be spent exploring, discovering and expanding his horizons. His gap-year (one of many years as it turned out) took him on a journey across the world and culminated in meeting his partner Josh Hobday (top right) in the UK in 2014. Together they continued to pursue their travel dreams, completing TEFL courses (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), thus enabling them to work in countries like Poland and China before winding their way back to Australia. Woolgoolga, to be more precise. After a year spent honing their skills in hospitality and enjoying the relaxed coastal Woopi lifestyle, they were approaching another cross-roads when, as fate would have it, an offer they just couldn’t refuse presented itself – to take over Components Café, landing them back in Harry’s home town of Dorrigo. He’d come full circle – much to the delight of family.
“In January this year we got a call from Barry, the previous owner, asking if we’d be interested,” Josh told us.[Harry & Josh were known to Barry through their creative hobby as acoustic music duo – Josh singing and Harry playing guitar.
They’d previously played gigs at Components Café under Barry’s stewardship.]
“We didn’t hesitate,” continued Josh. “We fell in love with the building and could see its potential for growth in such a beautiful community. We walked straight in, did a tidy up & a bit of a declutter, brought in some additional ‘special’ pieces of furniture and started trading.” These bespoke furniture items he casually slips into the conversation have been increasing in number thanks to Harry’s uber-talented dad and Dorrigo local Gordon Buchanan. It started with their coffee counter – exquisitely carved by Gordon from Rosewood timbers on his property, and gifted to the boys. Then came the guitars hanging in the cafe, the book-exchange book-nook, a miniature chair & corner display box…
Unquestionably a family that oozes talent and entrepreneurship, Harry’s brother Tristan inherited the sculpting gene, and his beautiful hand-carved chopping boards adorn the Cafe’s kitchen.
The boys work hard at maintaining consistency across the business from its opening hours (6am to 3pm daily, Sunday from 7am), to the coffee, quality ingredients, menu variety and service. “Nothing’s frozen here – it’s all fresh,” Josh assures us. We don’t doubt him. Harry adds, “We use fresh local produce where we can and are always on the lookout to source more.” Their all-day breakfast menu kicks off at 6am, and for the first two and a half hours of the day they’re the only ones doing it – for which the tradies, farmers & other early risers are grateful. Favourites with the regulars seem to be the Haloumi Stack, the $10 Bacon/Egg Roll & Coffee Special, and their House-Made Pies.
Despite the fact they’re located at the quieter end of Hickory Street they pride themselves on glowing customer reviews posted on websites such as TripAdvisor, and these reviews along with word-of-mouth referrals consistently bring newcomers – particularly tourists.
The boys are quick to credit their team – Promise, Jared and Lenny – and their casual school holiday junior staff – all Dorrigo locals. “We’re very lucky to have them – the café works so smoothly when we’re all in sync – which is super important in our tiny kitchen! We also believe it’s important for the business that everyone has all-rounder skills, so we’re working on that too.”
Is there anything Dorrigo could benefit from, that the boys might consider expanding into?
“Well it would be great to have a gym, and a cool bar in the area!” Harry enthuses. “But that’s just my own preference. And while Components Cafe can’t mobilise a gym, we’re toying with the idea of opening for evening meals, ideally with a liquor license. At the moment this would mean discovering the elixir of life so we can manage the 14-16 hour days!” But they’re keen on the idea. Josh adds, “Think warm summer evenings of tapas & drinks in the courtyard under twinkling lights strewn between the trees, live acoustic performances, garden parties…” This brings smiles to the boys’ faces and a fresh burst of enthusiasm all round as our conversation turns to the limitless imaginings of this revitalised outdoor space.
For now though, while sitting comfortably in the café’s cosy interior we become hypnotised by the late afternoon mist as it rolls down the road, bringing with it a chill to the air and a light Spring rain. And Josh reiterates that no matter what you’re offering, the key ‘component’ to ensuring happy customers is ‘consistency’.
“Being able to rely on having a great experience every time I visit a place is something I certainly look for, and it keeps me coming back. We want your Components Café experience to be consistently & reliably enjoyable … every time.”
Speaking of consistency, what makes a consistently great coffee?
“Aahhhh. You’ve got to look at it holistically. The coffee bean has to be nice (ours is Epica), the grinder must be decent and calibration checked regularly (we’re fortunate that ours is brand new) and the machine should be serviced regularly. Plus, get the coffee to the cup quickly. Once you’ve ground and tampered the coffee in the basket and locked it under the machine it needs to be poured immediately. If the grind sits too long under the machine in the basket, it will taste bitter because it’s burnt. The milk needs to be the right temperature, silky texture… it all culminates in a great cup of coffee. And making sure you serve the same great tasty cup in a timely fashion is important. I know it sounds boring but the secret is, (here’s that word again), consistency.
So when they’re not on the job, how do they relax?
“We both play squash at the local courts, have a strum and a sing, pop out to Bellingen for a meal… we don’t actually get much down time!” Harry says with a weary smile.
Time to let these boys pack up and prepare for another, consistently, busy day.
Components Cafe will be featuring some of the artists and performances as part of the upcoming Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival – October 25-27. Check the festival’s website.