Part of a series focusing on Tasmanian hospitality workers and their experiences during the COVID 19 outbreak.
Satoko first found her love for coffee working in the industry in Japan before an office job got in the way. Fortunes intervened though and she ‘encountered a great cup of coffee in Tokyo one day and that made me want to pursue coffee again’. Soon after she joined her partner in the move to Tasmania. ‘I thought it’ll be a great opportunity for me to learn more about coffee in Australia, center of coffee culture’, she reminisced. Soon after the move she started working at Shoebox Cafe, which had quickly become a Hobart icon. When the owner, Sam, took some time off for maternity leave an opportunity to learn more about the business side presented, and then something more became available.
‘Sam wanted to take a break to spend time with her family, and that was the time she first asked if I would be interested in inheriting that cute little space. I took over on Nov. 2018 so it’s been 15 months being a business owner now!’.
Satoko returned from a holiday on the 10th of March to find that there were cases of the COVID 19 virus in Australia. While only a handful she was quick to put measures in place, fearing it may spread quickly.
‘First was to gather as many hand sanitisers and hand soaps, paper towels for the cafe, but I was rather too late to react so I couldn’t get my hands on hand sanitisers as many as I wanted to. We went through since then to take cashless payments only, take some dining tables+chairs out etc. to a current stage where we took all the chairs away (tables are used for retail purposes only), no more newspapers, magazines. We have been already operating as having takeaway food ready in the display fridge so we didn’t need to change our operations drastically in that sense, unlike other cafes.’
Staffing fortunately hasn’t been effected too much. One staff member left due to concerns about working in customer service and her families health, but the cafe has continued to run with those remaining. Satoko put in place measures to protect her employees, such as placing coffee on a table to be picked up instead of handed over.
There hasn’t been a huge decrease in business yet, but Satoko sees the possibility coming, especially with the closing of schools forecast. She’s buoyed by the support of customers though.
‘The regular customers have been very generous to continue to pop in for their daily coffees. They now spot our retail area and buy coffee beans, or lunches they usually don’t buy, or an office nearby pre-paid a large amount of coffees for their colleagues to share, some customers just ask us to charge more on their usual coffees too. The best way so far is to keep coming in for your daily dose, eat our food and keep in touch!’
Satoko is proud to be able to be able to continue to support her suppliers, especially Jean Pascal Patisserie who bakes their bread and Best Fresh for seasonal fruits in the muffins they bake in house. She remains optimistic about the future.
‘As someone who rode through the first year in owning a business, I feel I have more confidence in able to survive this! If the government can act so we can get some financial help, that would definitely be a great push. I have great mentors I can ask for help, I feel I won’t be alone’
211a Elizabeth Street
7am-4:30pm Monday – Friday
Image credits Shoebox Cafe