Contemporary users of temporary spaces and facilitators of specialty coffee, Place Holder captures the ability of hospitality venues to create life from small spaces.
They say Melbourne is coffee crazy, and they’re probably right. Yet with all the reporting on single-origins, blends, cold-drip, aeropress, syphons, Slayers and Synessos, the real appeal of our café culture is often overlooked. Good coffee is undeniably fundamental to it, but good coffee is pretty much the norm these days, and for most of us living in the inner-city, a good coffee can be found in any number of places. It’s the peripherals and the intangibles that make a great café, and causes millions of us to visit these venues daily. Atmosphere. Staff. A spot where friends and colleagues unexpectedly drop by. A sense of place.
When it comes to creating a sense of place, a hospitality venue can achieve this like no other appropriation of a space. And venues such as new Fitzroy café Place Holder demonstrate just how little space is needed for a venue to instantly bring life and energy to it’s surrounds. Too small for retail, office or gallery purposes, Place Holder occupies a space small enough that it would often be overlooked, yet just a few days after opening, the space is singing as a café.
Established and operated by Sam King and Sonam Sherpa, Place Holder is the first venture for the pair, who together have worked at Top Paddock, Two Birds One Stone, Seven Seeds and the early incarnation of De Clieu. Ready to start their own spot but wanting to start out small, Top Paddock’s Nathan Toleman informed them of the twelve-month opportunity to set up at Neometro’s Nine Smith Street, alongside art gallery SLOPES and community food-garden initiative 3000acres.
Long time residents of the surrounding area, Sam and Sonam saw the opportunity to create what they have enjoyed about their favourite cafés over the years. “For us a good café is a place you can enjoy a few minutes chat with the staff one day, or a place to settle in, have a few coffees and catch up on work or with friends the next” says King. Built by Sam during an infamously hot week in January, furnished with stools from Smith Street based designer Jon Bem-Tovin and finished with some greenery and a glistening new coffee machine, Place Holder is easy going, relaxed and enjoyable – all of the things its owners want it to be.
Serving coffee from Seven Seeds and Small Batch, along with a selection of baked goods and baguettes, the pair also have two plots at the 3000acres garden at the café’s rear, where herbs such as mint and lemon myrtle are grown for teas, and all coffee grounds are given as fertiliser. “Someone could come into the gallery next door” explains Sonam, “then have a coffee with us and at the end of the day, their coffee grounds will be sent to the garden next door” says Sonam. “We like that”.
9 Smith Street, Fitzroy. Vic 3065
Place Holder owners Sonam Sherpa and Sam King
By Matt Hurst