Ethel, dahhhhlinks! And who’s behind E for Ethel? Amanda Matulick and Dan Harland, crafty couple, placemakers and small business ninjas. Seriously, they must have some kind of superpowers to get the amount of stuff done that they do. All the way back in May I paid them a visit to try and uncover those superpowers, or at least a few of their secrets about how to build such a well-loved local business. Just a quick heads-up though, we had a looong chat (I couldn’t believe how generous they were with their time!) so this is just part one of my E for Ethel feature… Part one is all about Amanda and Dan themselves, who they are and what makes E for Ethel the special little space that it is. Part two will be all about small business, Radelaide and placemaking!
It was one of the first chilly, drizzle days of May and E for Ethel was (and is) a perfect spot to shelter. I ducked my head inside and snooped around the racks and shelves and various displays of crafty goodness before introducing myself to A & D. Dan whipped me up a delish coffee (they serve them complete with choccie freckle and book quote snippet on the side) and one for himself and we settled in for a chat. First of all, I wanted to know about Amanda and Dan themselves. How did they find themselves running such a lovely nook of sweetness?
Dan: Amanda’s always wanted to have her own space and her background’s in hospitality so it was kinda natural for her. Myself, I was a panel-beater before this and I’d done that for maybe 15 years – straight out of high school – and had never done anything else. Amanda had the idea to open this place about five years ago and we just decided to jump and go with it. I think if you have a big idea like that there’s no point putting it off and then down the track regretting not doing it, or eventually getting around to it but regretting not doing it sooner. I’d always thought about owning my own business but more to do with panel-beating. I’d never really thought of having a retail/hospitality business before because I’d never worked in either of those industries. It was quite daunting actually, and I’m still learning, but that’s the nature of business.
Lauren (me): How do you see E for Ethel as a hub for your community, now and in the future?
Dan: We’ve been chatting about this a lot lately. It’s something we always wanted; back in our business plan we always intended the place to have a community feel to it. It’s something we can’t quite put our finger on exactly how it’s happened, but I guess we just love getting to know anyone who comes in and we want people to feel like they’re at home and the more we try and make people feel comfortable like that, the more it’s going to grow.
At this point, there was a little lull in cafe activity so Amanda was able to pop over and join us.
L: Have you found that community feel has helped you build up a group of regular customers?
Amanda: There’s lots of people that feel so comfortable here and have been coming in for a really long time – or even people that haven’t known us that long but they feel at-home here and that’s really special. When we originally talked about names for the shop, one of the names we liked was ‘The Cosy Cafe’ and that’s kinda what people feel in here, like they’re in their lounge room and they’re really cosy and do things like they bring their dishes back up to us and that’s really cute.
D: Actually, this place was a cafe about 20 years ago called ‘The Cosy Cafe’ or ‘The Cosy Place’ or something.
A: I think it was an Austrian Schnitzel bar or something, so slightly different! It sounds very cute though and people reminisce about it a lot so maybe there’s something in this building that makes it a cosy place to be. This space is somewhere where we can have visits from our friends and family and we have customers who’ve become friends and family and that’s a really beautiful thing.
L: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way, especially for Dan, not coming from a hospitality or retail background?
A: When we’d been in to do set-up and we were packing down for the night and we were opening the next day and we were pulling out of the car park, Dan said to me, “Do you know what my biggest fear is?” and I was like, “Nooo” and he was like, “Serving people” and I was like, “How did we get to this point, after two years of research and all of the fit-out and all of the craziness for you to tell me that right before we open?” and he was like “It’s your thing, I’m not going to spoil your dream just because I’m a little bit scared of people.” So yeah-
D: But yeah, you learn pretty quick!
A: But he’s amazing now.
D: Part of that was just that it was doing things that I’d never done before, like coffee and food and serving and I didn’t even know if I could do it so yeah…
A: You can! Hahaha… But other than that, I guess just what every business faces, you know, having to build a brand, build a name for yourself, having to cover your overheads and all of your expenses and making sure that you’re still enjoying it too. If you didn’t love it, you couldn’t survive in business I don’t think; you have to be passionate. Especially in small business. So I think all of the standard challenges, but we kinda see everything as an opportunity, as cliched as that sounds, we can always flip it and go, “So what does that mean and how can we change that and how can we create something different?” just trying to be clever about things.
L: What do you think makes E for Ethel a unique space? And a unique business?
D: I think just what we offer the customer. I mean, obviously it’s different to a normal retail space. We’re a dual business, with the food and retail space – not every store has that. We originally started as more retail and just did coffee but we’ve sort of grown into the space since then. I guess just that we’re still owner-operated too. We have friends and family who help out but if a customer comes in, we’re always going to be here and I think that offers a unique experience in itself. A lot of people talk about the ‘E for Ethel experience‘ as a thing, which is nice. It’s nice that a lot of our customers have that connection with the place. You can even see how big businesses are trying to move back towards that connection, personalising everything and styling themselves like a small business would, which is interesting. It’s a good thing, they should be doing that.
So there you have it, guys! Part one of two of my chat with Ethel’s own Amanda and Dan. Stay tuned for the next and final installment, and in the meantime why not pop in and say hey to the team? Make the most of that community atmosphere; it’s pretty special!
E for Ethel
Shop 7/116 Melbourne Street,
North Adelaide SA 5006
Phone 08 8367 0312
Wed to Sat – 9am to 5pm
Sun & Mon – 10am to 4pm