Christian Sullivan McNeill is co-founder & barista at Capulus & Co – a tiny hole-in-the-wall coffee shop he and his family operate from their home in Melbourne’s Brunswick. Since opening in early 2018, the cafe’s established itself as a small place with big heart – we caught up with Christian to find out how his day unfolds through a window.
6.30am // If I’m opening I’ll wake up now – thankfully the commute only involves walking downstairs to head into the lounge room. My parents bought this house over 30 years ago and it was way back then that the idea was actually conceived. Dad would joke with Mum that she should sell coffee and cake out of the window that we use today. Mum always laughed hysterically at this idea, envisioning other parents from our local primary school walking past her and laughing. It became a family joke, but then in 2017 I graduated from RMIT with a Bachelor of International Business and wanted to start something small of my own. I asked Mum and Dad if I could use the window space to open up a business, and after some discussion they were cool with the idea – in fact Mum said she’d join in, as did my younger sister Francesca. At the time my older sister Paris was living overseas, but she’s now returned and joined the family business.
7.30am // Our morning rush starts around 7:30, but every day’s different. My current role is to share the barista job with Francesca. We’ve lived in this house our entire lives and until now we’ve never known any of our neighbours except for the ones on either side of us. We used to say to each other how weird it was that we’ve lived here for so long and yet we didn’t know anyone, but that’s all changed since opening Capulus & Co. We’ve become such great friends with our local customers and can’t believe how close we’ve been living this entire time without ever having noticed them before. Now we couldn’t feel more connected to Brunswick and our community.
We’ve become such great friends with our local customers and can’t believe how close we’ve been living this entire time without ever having noticed them before. Now we couldn’t feel more connected to Brunswick and our community.
9am // This is usually when parents with prams swing by, as well as people walking or running around Princes Park. For people with prams it’s a hassle-free environment – almost like a drive-through. This is also the time when Mum is preparing sandwiches for lunch whilst simultaneously baking a fresh batch of cookies. Our food philosophy is that it always has to be fresh and made with quality ingredients – and as Mum would always say, it’s made with love. Our bread comes from Choukette in Brunswick, and we simply fill the baguettes with Mediterranean-inspired fillings. We make all our brookies (brownie-cookies), salted chocolate biscuits, friands, chocolate molten brownies and so on, and on Saturdays we make bacon, egg, cheese and spinach sandwiches with Dad’s homemade relish, which have been extremely successful!
10am // We’ll usually have a lull around now. When we were planning the business we spent a good couple of months taste-testing different coffee beans around Melbourne so that we could find our favourite. During this time we also got a lot of inspiration – and tips for council approval – from other young hospitality business-owners in Melbourne. Finally, we developed a concept for how we wanted Capulus & Co to look, and what we wanted ourselves and the community to gain from it. The house is painted an off-white colour paired with black and white marble tiles on the front terrace, and has a very European vibe to it. We get compliments on the appearance of the window and the building itself – a lot of people have commented on how the house has changed over the years or how they’ve been watching the development of the facade, feeling curious with what we were going to do with it. People love the simple concept of the business – serving great coffee out of our window with no frills or fuss. They’re often shocked to learn we live in the house and that Capulus & Co has been built into our living room – the expression of people’s faces on hearing that is priceless.
12pm //Over lunchtime we have a fairly constant stream of people until we close. Luckily we’re a small enough business that almost everything we make we’re able to sell, which means almost zero-wastage – that’s crucial to the financial success of a business, but also to maintaining an environmentally sustainable one. Our family is very environmentally conscious… I’m not sure if living in Brunswick has had that effect on us? Our coffee cups and lids are biodegradable, but luckily many of our customers bring their own reusable cups or mugs – one of our favourite customers, Carroll, brings an old Vegemite glass container with its lid every morning. We also have porcelain glasses for customers who want to sit outside or drink at the window. We use biodegradable bags for storing coffee grounds and give them away as a fertiliser to friends and family to use for compost – we certainly never throw them away, that’s for sure. We also hardly consume any plastic – we all have a responsibility to the earth, whether or not you own a business.
2pm // We close at 2pm and often get busy just before then. All of us at Capulus & Co have formed such strong connections with our customers. We consider ourselves extremely lucky to have met them and look forward to seeing them each day. It feels like it’s become a community spot where you get a coffee and something to eat, but you also hang around and have a chat – our customers have definitely become our friends, which is pretty cool. Often they’ll engage with each other because they’re standing at the window talking to us, which we love. I think the cafe gives off a very relaxed vibe which makes a coffee that much more enjoyable. It becomes a shared experience between a local business and its local people – it becomes more than just a coffee.
Luckily many of our customers bring their own reusable cups or mugs – one of our favourite customers, Carroll, brings an old Vegemite glass container with its lid every morning.