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100 Espressos - Wollongong NSW

One late morning, Craig and I were having an early lunch when he decided on a fun experiment of doing a list.

A list?  Craig asked me how many cafes I reckoned are operating on the Illawarra coast from Coledale in the northern villages to the southern city limits of Wollongong itself. Wollongong, south of Sydney and separated by the Royal National Park, has an indicative population of 292,388 in 2016 reports.    It is the 11th largest urban conurbation in Australia by latest count, behind the Sunshine Coast in south-east Queensland but ahead of Hobart, Tasmania; Darwin, capital city of the Northern Territory; and Cairns in northern Queensland.

The Scratch Coffee Co. at 173 Wentworth Street in Port Kembla NSW.

For a regional hub, I previously thought it would be around 60 cafes for Wollongong.  Craig and I went to work, writing on napkins whilst enjoying the modern Aussie breakfast dishes creatively made to accompany the more than 200 blends of coffee available on this continental island, with a current national population of 24 million.

The results after half an hour of Craig and I listing on napkins turned out to be more than 100.   The results are provided at the end of this blog write up.*   I only know of one cafe that closed in Thirroul in recent years, but again I am no expert, only a consumer and visitor to cafes.   My burning hot questions are then these:

1. What does each operating cafe do utmost to attract and retain their customers?

At All & Sundry off 383 Princes Highway, Woonona NSW.

2. How does each cafe owner differentiate his or her business from the others, especially in an increasingly competitive environment?   Can it be having a unique and attractive coffee blend, keeping the target customer demographic engaged or providing secondary requirements like unique food?

3.  What key factor does each cafe owner/operator attribute to bringing success?  Is it business location, coffee blends, keeping costs to a minimum,  regular patronage, interior decor and projected ambiance, changing regularly to sustain interest or the very model of the business itself?

Buck Hamblin is located at 260 Lawrence Hargrave Drive in Thirroul NSW.

4.  Viable cafes do achieve a baseline of revenues, product turnover and minimal expenditures.    What do cafe owners view as the most risky threats to their business?

5.  What is the next big thing each cafe owner plans for the future?

I invite interested parties to send me much appreciated feedback by making comments in response to this blog.  Please let me know if I have missed listing your business or favourite cafe.

The Broken Drum Cafe is near Woolworths in Fairy Meadow NSW.

The cafe business can be like living in a small village, where a network of baristas, cafe owners and coffee suppliers can interact and know each other well.   There are people who have come from the capital cities, there are innovators who know their market and customers and there is the supply of staff in a pool from a university town like Wollongong.   Several cafes are especially active on social media.  Many provide cakes, others savoury dishes from a kitchen and several have both.

When Cafe Pellegrini came to Wollongong from Melbourne, it was a landmark event, but that was so many years ago.    In the past ten years, the sector in Wollongong, and really around Australia, has transformed significantly, got attention from the world and now set the benchmarks in many aspects of the art and trade.

Hevan Espresso is at 181 Princes Highway in Corrimal NSW.

Are most cafes in Wollongong making money?  Are they making enough to project their individual businesses to the next stage?  Are the mostly twenty something year olds working in such cafes only putting a temporary stint to earn side money while they make other plans for their career?   Most cafes in the Wollongong area close by 2pm.   Some have licensed liquor bars, many make big breakfasts and smoothies seem to be always available with the coffee.

The demographics of customers can change with each hour of the cafe being open.   There can be a parade of train commuters, dawn cyclists, tradies, pensioners, young mothers, grandparents, kids after school, hipsters, gender-based groups and coffee devotees.   They have made the cafes an integral part of their routine, to accompany their other activities around town or the suburb.   

White Rabbit Cafe is at 2/50 Grey Street in Keiraville NSW.

Cooler temperatures in winter can make them yearn for properly made hot cuppas, while the iced lattes feature more during days of sweltering summer heat.   Many cafes in Wollongong close on weekends and yet some are beginning to lure customers seven days a week.   Some cafes are small, others have two shop fronts and yet others are not visible from the main strip.  Many cafes commenced business with an emphasis on coffee, yet there are some now that are adjuncts to existing restaurant operations.

Several cafes make extra effort to create an experience for the customer, whether it is in the quaint accessories, the thoughtfulness in creating the walls or in the lay out for flow of spaces, private or for groups.  Do the baristas engage in meaningful conversation that makes people want to return?    Is there easy access through private vehicle parking or by good public transport?   Are opening hours suitable for customers?

Earth Walker & Co General Store is sited at 749 Lawrence Hargrave Drive in Coledale NSW.

The One Hundred and More Cafes in Wollongong area, NSW - February 2017*

This list is in no particular order of ranking and does not include franchise chains.

Northern Villages

1.    Earth Walker, Coledale
2.    Austi Beach Cafe, Austinmer
3.    Fireworks, Austinmer
4.    Bread, Espresso &, Thirroul
5.    Fin Box Board Store Cafe, Thirroul

6.    Honest Don's, Thirroul
7.    Seafoam Cafe, NSW Rail Station, Thirroul  
8.    Cucina, Thirroul
9.    Buck Hamblin, Thirroul
10.  Gidgets Cafe & Bar, Thirroul

11.  Beanstalk Cafe, NSW Rail Station, Thirroul
12.  Tin Shed Cafe, Thirroul
13.  Jose Jones, Thirroul
14.  Stokes Lane, Bulli
15.  The Point Milk Bar, Bulli

16.  One on Park Cafe Kiosk, Bulli Beach
17.  Ruby's Bulli Beach Cafe
18.  Gelato Emporium, Lookout Point, along Motorway, Bulli

Northern Suburbs

1.     Four Little Beans, Woonona
2.     Cafeli House, Woonona
3.     All & Sundry, Woonona
4.     Flat White For One, Corrimal
5.     Franks'N' Beans, Corrimal East

6.     Hevan Espresso, Corrimal
7.     Manjit's Cafe, Corrimal
8.     Coast Cafe, Corrimal
9.     Coffee Guru, Stockland Shopping Centre, Corrimal 
10.   Cafe Angeli, Corrimal 

11.   Drift Lounge, Corrimal
12.   Luna Espresso, Corrimal
13.   Green Bean Play Cafe, Corrimal
14.   Dusk Cafe, Tarrawanna
15.   Yarnsy's, Tarrawarna

16.   Bill & James, Balgownie Village
17.   Urban Grind, Balgownie Village
18.   Nourished at Bally, Balgownie Village 
19    Broken Drum Espresso, Fairy Meadow
20.   Two Doors Up, Fairy Meadow

21.   Patiscceria Massimo Papa, Fairy Meadow 
22.   Reay's Place, Fairy Meadow
23.   Triangle Cafe, Fairy Meadow
24.   Staggletooth, Fairy Meadow

North Wollongong

1.    Delano Specialty Coffee, Montague Street
2.    Rush iC Cafe, Innovation Campus
3.    The Matchbox, Innovation Campus
4.    Diggies Cafe, Cliff Road
5.    My Pantry, Cliff Road

6.    The Northbeach Pavilion, Cliff Road
7.    Cafe at the Lagoon
8.    Mud Cat Cafe, Novotel North Beach
9.    Connie's Cliff Road Cafe
10.  Aqua Cafe, Cliff Road

11.  Bluorange Cafe, Cliff Road

West of Wollongong City Centre

1.    Rush, UOW Main Campus
2.    Rush 2, UOW Main Campus
3.    The Yard, Building 7, UOW Main Campus 
4.    Panizzi Cafe, Library, UOW Main Campus 
5.    Urban Grind, URAC, UOW Main Campus

6.    White Rabbit Cafe, Keiraville
7.    Zanders Cafe & Dessert Bar, Keiraville
8.    Giddy Goat, Keiraville
9.    BarLissimo, Gipps Road
10.  Espresso Warriors, Keiraville

Wollongong Harbour

1.    Bombara Seafood, Endeavour Drive
2.    Levendi's, Cliff Road 
3.    The Green Room City Beach Cafe, Marine Drive




1.    Lee & Me, Lower Crown Street 
2.    Lower East, Lower Crown Street
3.    Sopranos on the Mall, Crown Street
4.    Patiscceria Massimo Papa, near Crown and Corrimal Streets
5.    Beast & Bread, GPT Shopping Centre, Keira Street

6.    Sugar Cube, Lower Crown Street 
7.    Mr Crown, Crown Street
8.    Quay Canteen, above the Square Cafe Restaurant Bar
9.    Square Cafe Restaurant Bar, midway along Crown Street Mall
10.  Quotes.Cafe

11.  Yum Yum Cafe & Bakery
12.  Swell Coffee
13.  Glass Alley Coffee
14.  Town House Chamber
15.  His Boy Elroy

16.   Kurtosh House No.5, Globe Lane
17.   TLC Cafe, behind Lee & Me


1.   Terra Mia
2.   The Social, Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC)
3.   Kafe on Burelli, Wollongong City Council
4.   Santana Coffee
5.   Crafted Espresso


1.   Litani's Mediterranean
2.   Marco
3.   Il Mondo Del Cafe
4.   Gigi's, corner of Market and Corrimal Streets
5.   Deli &  Dine, on Market Street next to Gigi's
6.   Lili-J Cafe, Corrimal Street south, opposite the Wollongong Golf Club


1.    Cafe Pellegrini, Hotel Illawarra, Keira Street
2.    Happy Barista Espresso Bar, Keira Street 
3.    Bull & Bear Cafe, Keira and Victoria Streets
4.    Opus Coffee Brewers, Keira Street
5.    The Living Room

6.     Keira Street Cafe 
7.     Cafe Adore


1.     Lettuce B. Frank, Crown Street near NSW Rail Station
2.     Sandy Goodwich, Crown Street near NSW Rail Station
3.     Meni  Cafe at Picadilly Centre, Crown Street
4.     Crown Cafe & Catering, Wollongong Hospital


1.    Little Stompers, Kenny Street
2.    Emporium on Swan, Swan Street
3.    Zac's Cafe & Bistro, Church Street
4.    Panizzi Cafe, Princes Highway
5.    Prufock Espresso Bar, Atchison Street

6.    Bostons Espresso, Atchison Street
7,    City West Cafe, Market Street
8.    Ground Cafe, Kembla Street

South of Wollongong City Centre

1.   Portobello Espresso Bar, Mangerton 
2.   Lechappe Cycle Cafe, Keira Street
3.   Scratch Coffee Co. at Wentworth Street, Port Kembla
4.   The Foundery  at Wentworth Street, Port Kembla
5.   Seascape Cafe, NSW Marine Police Centre, Port Kembla

(Latest count here = 118 cafes)


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