I had been working in IT for about 15 years, initially in very technical roles, but later in more customer relationship management type roles. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to live in Europe for a while when I was younger, and it was there that I developed my love for the daily ritual of visiting a café to enjoy coffee and amazing food. But I’ve always been really passionate about coffee, ever since my Uni days, and it eventually got to the point where I found myself thinking about coffee all day long. Around 2010, I started doing cafe reviews both for my own research (to fully understand the difference between an ok cafe experience and one that completely blows your mind), and because I felt there was an opportunity to contribute and help develop the local specialty coffee movement. In fact, I had done almost 300 cafe reviews during that time, for Beanhunter and GRAM Magazine. It allowed me to get to know a most of the people involved in the local coffee scene during that time, and I felt a real connection with them.
Interestingly, at the same time my wife Rejoice had taken baking (in particular, GF baking) from a hobby to a serious passion. In 2012, things just fell into place and I felt the time was right to walk away from IT to focus 100% on coffee. I started working at my friend's suburban cafe (Uncle Joe's Coffee House) in Coorparoo. It was here, working as a barista and cafe all-rounder that I got a real feel for what it was like to run a successful café, and I was able to put my other strengths to good use. And it was when I realised how much I loved the suburban cafe concept - where you can really get to know your locals and you have time to form real friendships over time.
So we really decided we wanted to create an iconic suburban Brisbane café, and that’s what we had in mind when we created Dovetail on Overend. We setup the café from a completely empty space in a renovated old corner store located in the peaceful neighbourhood of Norman Park. This pocket is affectionately known as Poet’s Corner with all the surrounding streets named after famous English poets – which we found so charming. What I immediately loved about this space was that it was so close to the city, and river, yet it felt so relaxing and tranquil. A local corner store that was here since the 1930s was a real local hub for the community, and we were really keen to recreate a meeting place for our local community with our cafe. With that in mind, we spent quite some time coming up with the name for our café, and it was Rejoice who suggested Dovetail – as we really wanted something pretty that signified people coming together and connecting. Dovetail on Overend was born. That concept is reinforced with a lot of the little touches that have been incorporated into our café – like the communal bench that beautifully frames our footpath dining area, and the bench seat that was erected solely as a resting place for our local postie. Inside our building, we share spaces with a local architect and a couple of local artists who are known for their amazing indigenous art and design. So the creative talent in our building is a very good fit for our little pocket of Poet’s Corner.
When I think about our point of difference, what comes to mind is the unique experience we offer (as a whole). I’m really delighted with the overall feel of our café, it’s just so lovely to sit out under that awning in the light breeze and just unwind. When you come to the front of our café to order, we invite you to step up into our space and be part of our world – we have an open galley-style fit out with the coffee station and kitchen area in full view. It means that we are even more mindful of our presentation, our clean and efficient operation. Our coffee and food is all prepared from the best ingredients we can find with a massive emphasis on quality and flavour. I would even say “uncompromising” because that’s my nature. But perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle is our friendly and personal service. Rejoice and I enjoy playing an active role in our café as we really enjoy interacting with our customers.
But perhaps the most valued aspect of our business is that we really go out of our way to respect peoples’ food intolerances and preferences. Being coeliac myself, I have a deep understanding of all the challenges people like me are faced with when we visit new cafes/restaurants. There have been so many times that I paid extra for a smaller and lesser quality dish, or ended up feeling unwell due to a café’s poor handling or understanding of GF principles. I knew we could do much better, and Rejoice and I decided long ago that we would offer high quality gluten free options with generous sized servings and we would never charge any extra over a non-GF alternative, ever. We’re hoping that other cafes will adopt a similar ethos and that eventually the majority of cafes and restaurants will see the value in this and get on board. As we designed our café from scratch, we were able to incorporate separate ingredients, spaces, equipment and processes to ensure our gluten free dishes are actually gluten free. We’ve also trained every single team member to follow our processes carefully. The culture in our team is that we all have a similar level of care (and inclusiveness) for people who request vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free etc. We try to make it as easy and painless as possible so that they can just get on with enjoying their brunch.
Coffee-wise, we’ve been pretty focussed since the day we opened our doors. I would say that during our first couple of years we were absolutely focussed on our coffee. There’s a classic Matt Damon line in the movie The Martian where he says "I'm gonna have to science the %$#@ out of this." That was really our approach to coffee for quite some time and I’m proud to say that our coffee has always been epic. Eventually though, you gather enough experience and knowledge, your processes are more mature, and your focus evolves. We now put more emphasis on offering coffees on any given day that are at opposite sides of the spectrum. So we now aim to offer a genuine milk-based blend that’s quite bold with a smooth lingering finish, and also something mind-blowingly fruity for black coffee drinkers (who still make up a big proportion of our customer base). It's best of both worlds, so everyone leaves happy.
We’ve been lucky to have some amazing baristas in our team, and for about the last 6 years we’ve also tried to give back to our coffee community by running an ongoing mentoring program where we train up passionate up and coming baristas (for free) in a real working environment and unleash them on Brisbane. It’s something that I'm particularly proud of, and it’s so rewarding when those baristas land a job at some of the other amazing specialty coffee places in Brisbane. It’s easy to take it for granted sometimes, but the coffee community here in Brisbane is just amazing. The level of support and even collaboration here is just brilliant, and something we are delighted to be part of.
Rejoice and I have now been cafe owners for almost 10 years. We make a pretty formidable team, as Rejoice has the creative flair, and I try to help with the nuts and bolts of putting things in place to help us continually evolve. We're both extremely proud of our latest venture, Dovetail Social, which we opened in 2020. In this cafe, we've tried to incorporate all of our best ideas and learnings over many years. There are so many things that I personally love about this space, but at the heart of it is the culture that we've created within our team to make every customer experience special.
Apart from coffee, I’ve really developed a true love for food and cooking for my family. I now spend more time at home cooking than anything else. Rejoice and I both also love movies, we’re pretty much movie fanatics. We love to travel, and over the last few years we’ve been doing a lot more road trips as we find it’s a good way to slow down time and reconnect. Plus it’s an amazing way to explore and appreciate what a beautiful country we’re lucky enough to call home.