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Meet our Partners: Jo & Huy from A PLACE Coffee

Meet our Partners: Jo & Huy from A PLACE Coffee

We’ve known Jo Nguyen for over seven years, as the manager of Exchange, our long-time wholesale partners in Adelaide/Kaurna Country. So, we were delighted when we heard that she’d made the exciting decision to open her own coffee shop with her partner, Huy Bui. A PLACE Coffee is a cosy, coffee-centric café located in the Nightingale building in Bowden, SA.

The shop’s exposed brick and timber accents provide a warm and welcoming environment where Jo and Huy can focus on their dual goals for the business: to showcase and share outstanding, ethically sourced coffees and to create a community space where people can drop in, meet up and connect.

A PLACE serves Market Lane’s Seasonal Blend as their house coffee. They also offer our filter and espresso coffees on the bar, alongside those of other quality-focused roasters, and they retail our beans for home.

We chatted with Jo and Huy about the inception of their dream to open their own shop, their choice of location, and the reception they’ve received so far (spoiler alert: people love it)!

Market Lane Coffee: How did you get started in specialty coffee?

Jo: My journey into specialty coffee began quite organically. I've always had a keen interest in coffee, and my first job was in a busy Adelaide coffee franchise. Over time, I became fascinated by some local coffee shops that offered something markedly different – coffees that were brighter, sweeter and had a lighter roast profile compared to the traditional dark-roasted Italian style that I’d been serving. That really opened my eyes to the potential of coffee.

I remember going out on my break to grab long blacks from Exchange, a beloved Adelaide institution, and sneaking them back into our shop. It was a bit of a covert operation, but it fueled my dream of working in a place that embraced specialty coffee. This desire eventually led me to apply for a job at Exchange! Getting hired there was a dream come true.

And you went on to eventually manage Exchange?

Jo: Yeah, after gaining a lot of support and experience, I eventually got the opportunity to manage the shop and lead the team at Exchange . It was really special to be there for such a long time.

What made you want to open your own coffee shop?

Huy: Jo and I first bonded over our mutual love of coffee at Exchange. We’d often meet up after her shifts at ‘the other shop’ to share a cookie and enjoy a long black together. As our relationship grew, so did our dream of creating a space where others could experience the joy of great coffee, just as we did.

We spent years envisioning every detail, from the design of the space to the type of coffee we wanted to serve (Market Lane, of course)! For us, it's about more than just serving excellent drinks; it's about crafting an experience that might introduce someone to their new favourite coffee. It was a dream that started as Jo’s, but it quickly became our joint passion.

Can you tell us a bit about the location of A PLACE?

Jo: Huy and I had often talked about opening a coffee shop. Initially, it felt more like a dream than a tangible plan. I wasn’t sure that I could manage something like that on my own. But everything changed when we discovered the shop location in Adelaide’s first Nightingale building. It seemed serendipitous because it brought together our passions: Huy’s background in social housing and my experience in hospitality. It just felt right. Within two days of seeing the place, we were drafting our business proposal (something we’d never done before). It was a leap of faith, but it felt like the perfect step for us.

And how did you come up with the name?

Jo: When choosing the name, we wanted something that embodied a sense of warmth and community, a place where people feel welcome and at home. As we brainstormed, the phrase ‘a place’ kept coming up. It resonated with our vision of a gathering spot for friendly chats and a cosy atmosphere. Ultimately, we settled on A PLACE Coffee, and it just felt right. It encapsulates exactly what we aim to offer: a welcoming space for everyone to enjoy.

What can customers expect when they visit A PLACE?

Jo: We strive to create a warm and inviting atmosphere where everyone feels welcome, whether you're a coffee enthusiast or just looking for a cosy spot to relax.

Our passion for coffee runs deep, and we love sharing that enthusiasm with our customers. Even if you're not a coffee connoisseur, we're happy to guide you through the journey – from understanding the origins of our beans to how they're processed – so you'll leave with a newfound appreciation for the craft.

But it's not just about the coffee, it's about community, too. We cherish the moments when neighbours bump into each other, share stories and connect over a cup of coffee. It's these small interactions that make A PLACE feel so special.

Have there been any special or surprising moments in the shop?

Huy: Honestly, the whole experience has been full of surprises. When we started, Jo and I had this worry – almost a nightmare – that perhaps no one would show up. But the reality has been the complete opposite. We've been overwhelmed by the love and support from our community. People aren't just visiting; they're coming back regularly and bringing so much positivity with them.

Jo: It's been absolutely incredible. It’s true that initially we were worried about whether anyone would even stop by. But now, every weekend, our little corner shop becomes a vibrant gathering place with people sprawling out onto the street, enjoying their coffee and just hanging out. It's turned into something truly special and surprisingly wonderful. Just the other day, Huy and I looked at each other, amazed at how lively it's become. It's a great feeling!


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