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Combating COVID-19 with coffee and kindness

12/06/2020

How Wildflower Espresso helped change the Covid culture one coffee at a time.

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After working in hospitality for many years, local café owners Jack and Rianna took the plunge and opened the doors to their own business, Wildflower Espresso at Wallsend.

In just two years, the husband and wife duo opened up a second location at Newcastle Station and have been riding out the COVID-19 storm for the last few months like many other local businesses.

Since the beginning, they wanted the focus of their business to be about an experience and a community.

“We are people focused and count it as a real honour to be part of a person’s day. We never want people to just leave with a hot drink, we want them to feel valued and like they’ve been part of an entire Wildflower experience and that it’s a part of their day to look forward to,” Rianna said.

When the pandemic hit, Jack and Rianna hung on to that sense of community, transforming Wildflower into a space for people to escape the negativity.

“The first few weeks were wild. The whole tone of the community was incredibly dark and the fear seemed to create a heavy culture that brought out a lot of pessimism,” Rianna said.

“At the start you couldn’t engage in a conversation without hearing about the virus, the toilet paper, criticism about the government. It was just overwhelming so we decided overnight that we would be a different place for people.

“The best thing we did was put a sign on the counter that said something along the lines of ‘need something else to talk about…’ with 5 or 6 conversation starters and suddenly people across the café were laughing and exchanging stories with total strangers.”

“It showed me how much people were longing for a place not to be filled with fear or frustration.”

Despite suffering their own setbacks, including having to temporarily close their City venue, Rianna and Jack have channeled their energy towards supporting and giving back to their community.

“I feel like the small business lifestyle kind of prepares business owners for seasons like this – it is chaotic, unchartered and you constantly jump between not knowing what you’re doing and feeling like you’re doing the wrong thing,” Rianna said.

“This situation is a little different because everyone is in it together, so there’s been this great rise of community which has been so incredible to be part of and to champion for others.”

In addition to spreading the positive vibes in their café and across social media, they decided to introduce a pay-it-forward scheme for healthcare workers and have given out almost 700 coffees in the last few weeks to nurses, doctors, researchers and hospital staff.

Wildflower Espresso

“It was crazy seeing how much our incredible frontline staff actually appreciated it, and similarly the people who donated were appreciative of a chance to show kindness and support. It reemphasised the power that is in community,” Rianna said.

“Newcastle really has this unique sense of community amongst business owners and through this time there has been so much supporting, cheering on, helping out and championing one another. It’s almost like Covid has really been this common enemy that we are all determined to claim victory against!”

With restrictions starting to ease, Rianna is cautiously optimistic about the future and is seeking the good out of a challenging situation.

“This time of disruption has unsurprisingly brought out some holes in our operation and we’re really excited to spend the next bit of time refining our team skills and setting a firm vision for our future,” Rianna said.

“We’re lucky enough to be avoiding financial difficulties at the moment so haven’t had much interaction with our business manager, but the staff at Newcastle Permanent branches have been incredible to us. They’re always patient and offer assistance, which really makes banking a joyful experience.”

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication.

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