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How to Build a Cafe in Nine Days

Go behind the scenes of The Grounds of Alexandria's Sculpture by the Sea pop-up.
By Shannon Connellan
January 22, 2015
By Shannon Connellan
January 22, 2015

Anyone who's opened the doors on their own piece of coffee heaven knows, building a cafe from scratch can take months, even years. But the visionary team behind The Grounds of Alexandria threw caution and time to the wind when they were invited to build their own pop-up cafe for Sculpture by the Sea 2014 — they built the whole thing in just nine days. Sitting at Marks Park between Bondi and Tamarama for 19 days, the gorgeous temporary cafe was dubbed The Grounds by the Sea, the lifetime of which is documented in this video.

Built from recycled timber, tin and materials, The Grounds by the Sea had sustainability as its first priority. Grounds stylist Therese Moussa set the tone, while Grounds co-owner and creative director Ramzey Choker put together a specially designed seed-to-plate menu; all produce was seasonal and sourced from the finest growers and producers in the local vicinity. Meanwhile, co-owner and world latte champion Jack Hanna brought his skilful team of baristas to the site, with both Synesso machines and a filter brew bar working from dawn to dusk.

So how did the Grounds team make all this happen in nine days? It all comes down to planning — a whole month of planning in fact. Choker and Moussa took four weeks of concept planning (day and night), the building phase took nine days (including three stressful storm-approaching days of putting the tin roof on) and the cafe was in operation for three weeks. As with all painstakingly created art, the destruction of it happened in the blink of an eye in comparison — demolition took just three days.

"It was a huge collaborative effort and involved a very dedicated, hard-working team," says Choker. "It enabled us to directly connect with the Eastern Suburbs community and engage face-to-face with residents. The positive response we received from the local community was absolutely overwhelming. We had over half a million people pass through our doors over the three-week exhibition and loved every moment of our time at Marks Park. It was also a great branding exercise for The Grounds to be aligned with a reputable national initiative like Sculpture by the Sea."

Having hit it out of the park with the Sculpture pop-up, the Grounds team are keen to do more pop-ups in the future. "The fact that we were able to pull off what we did in the time we did to the success we did has left us wanting a whole lot more," says Choker. "Next time we would definitely obtain a bigger site which in turn would allow us additional space to create more interactive experiences for customers. I would also allow a little more time for both the planning and building stages.

"We love pushing the envelope and thinking outside the lines. We created a memorable culinary experience, something that had never been done before. The sky is the limit for The Grounds. We have some new exciting projects happening later this year, so watch this space."

Words by Shannon Connellan and Jasmine Crittenden. Images by Damian Flanagan.

Published on January 22, 2015 by Shannon Connellan
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