Simon and Kim, owners of Next Door Espresso are late, and I couldn’t be happier. Having been greeted by manager Bryce with a warm smile and delivered a beautifully crafted Moonshine flat white served in a funky earthenware cup, I’m surrounded by the buzz of mums and kids, tradies and travellers. All are talking, feasting and enjoying the relaxed vibe and bright sunshine.
It’s an easy place to wait. Maybe it’s the stucco white walls and polished concrete floors, gently domed recesses for vases reminiscent of a Greek island café. Maybe it’s because of the clever touches of climbing vines growing from round pots or the cheerful umbrellas and white pergola. It’s a beautiful and welcoming space.
Simon and Kim arrive with a relaxed smile and warm welcome. “Sorry! We got caught up at Burleigh, spending time with the crew.” Next Door has a second outlet in the industrial estate in Burleigh Heads, and spending time supporting staff is at the heart of their business. “Our staff have the attitude that they want to impress the customer, not the boss. We value our staff because they want to be in the roles they have” says Simon.
This ethos is easy to see in action. Regulars’ coffees are made and delivered without an order being placed and helpful acts of replacing glasses or opening bottles speak of a willingness to go the extra mile. At Next Door, normal interactions are made just a little bit special.
It helps that the Byron Moonshine Moon Runner blend is being expertly and quickly made on a bright white La Marzocco Linea 3 group espresso machine, with matching white Mazzer Robur E grinder. A PUQ press and scales add to the sense that these guys are serious about their coffee. My flat white is perfectly smooth, full-flavoured, and wonderfully chocolatey on the finish.
Simon and Kim’s inspiration for running cafés comes partly from Simon’s upbringing in country pubs, meaning that values of openness, kindness and exceptional attention to detail were instilled at an early age. “People feel as though they are a part of Next Door,” explains Simon. “We want locals to feel they can pop ‘next door’ for a chat and for some great food and coffee”.
The desire to run a hospitality business also came out of their experience as travellers in the USA. “We were staying at Lake Tahoe in California and were absolutely blown away by the service we received at the local café,” Kim explains. “There was great food and coffee in Australia, but nothing like the level of service we experienced.”
These two are adventurous, and up for a challenge. As well as being an expert barista, Kim has worked as a boat skipper. In addition to his café nous, Simon is a qualified electrician and he’s pretty good at Motocross, having completed the Finke Desert Rally and competed internationally.
After returning from the USA to Brisbane, they spent a year working to save for their first venture. And, so, in 2017, Next Door Tweed Heads was born. Their plan to ensure they succeeded was to focus on impressing locals during the week and also welcome visitors on the weekends.
They weren’t afraid to learn from their mistakes. “When we first opened, we were convinced we were onto a winner serving vegan donuts. We were the only café in the area to offer them,” explains Kim. “They were a total nonstarter, lasting only a day before going stale and costing a fortune.” Their lesson? To stop guessing and, instead, tuning into what locals want.
The Next Door menu covers the gamut of options for breakfast and lunch, with the Summer Greens Bowl and the range of burgers, complete with exemplary chips and side salad, as stand-outs.
I enjoy watching kitchen staff taking time with each plate, arranging items to ensure they look just ‘so’. Despite this extra care, service is efficient; this is a well drilled team.
Next Door expanded to include the Burleigh site in 2020. It turned out to be a ‘brave’ decision, with all the subsequent uncertainty that came with Covid restrictions. “The recent floods were another challenge,” says Simon. “Thankfully the water stopped at our doorstep in Tweed Heads.”
Locals are again flocking to both venues, which are acting as an informal rallying and support point for those recovering from the recent disaster and for anyone simply needing an opportunity to ‘pop next door’ for great coffee and a chat.
56 Dry Dock Road
6am - 12pm
24 Junction Road
Monday - Saturday
6am - 2pm