| Alischa Herrmann
There comes a time, when all beautiful things must end. And today, we announce the upcoming end, of something pretty big, pretty beautiful and something we never knew if we could bring ourselves to say goodbye to.
But before we go there, let’s go back. Back then the beginning as all good stories are much better with a beginning, a middle and an end.
Bespoke letterpress was born under a 1935 house by the sea in Brisbane in 2008. A clunky old 1893 foot treadled press, a love for print, a passion for this craftsmanship and a pure love. Their was no ambition to take on the world, to become the “it” girl of letterpress and stationery. It was all just a love, a love so deep, a love I knew I had to follow. The path was unknown but that didn’t matter, I wasn’t out to follow anyone’s footsteps, I just wanted to pace my own way in this crazy letterpress world.
Fast forward to 2013, we make the big move to move 7 tonne of cast iron machinery on a truck, plus our entire life contents to a sleepy country town called Bowral.
We buy a house with a very old cottage out the front, it’s perfect, for me, for letterpress, for our new life in the country.
We welcome our first human baby Albert, life speeds on. We buy and renovate an estate property Arafel Park, we start to holiday rent it and it quickly builds into a whole new crazy busy business as well.
Meanwhile the demand for our letterpress products explodes, we can’t keep up. We are bursting out of our cottage seams. We need somewhere bigger, we need a new home for the printing beasts, and maybe just a little store out the front.
We hunt and hunt, we get word on a new retail development happening in our sleepy down. Down the “dead” end of town. The end that no one goes too. We think ok this might work. Presses will fit, little stationery store out the front, but the catch, we can only have the space if we open a cafe as well. Wait. What? Ok. We will be just a little coffee shop, we can do that right? How hard can that be!
We wait and wait, the development takes longer then it’s supposed to. I give birth to our second child, 7 days later we have the keys and are in their working like mad fitting it out. I assure you hard physical work building a shop is not the key to a birth recovery plan.
We open, and whoah it’s crazy. Our little coffee shop idea, it just implodes. We quickly have to pivot and turn into a full scale cafe. It seems our little idea is just what our town needed. The sleepy end of town goes crazy. Theirs a rebirth. Amazing stores open up around us. It’s just what our town, the locals, the tourists needed.
But for us, it was crazy. Here we are, now with 3 businesses, my husband away with his job in the airlines gone for 5 nights a week, leaving me solo with 3 businesses, a 3 year old, a newborn and a whole heap of angst as to how to possibly fit this all in to my days.
But heads down, bums up, we just got on with it! And with time, passion, dedicated staff and a whole heap of throwing our life savings at things, we slowly got into a groove. It was crazy, oh how it was crazy, but we finally got to a point where we could breath.
The cafe powered onwards, we won best Southern Highlands cafe in 2019, as well as the sustainability award from all businesses across the Highlands. We were featured in so many major publications locally and abroad, we were instagrammed like crazy, we had visitors from near, far and even overseas just coming to see us, and our crazy idea of where letterpress meets cafe.
We had another baby (seems we love babies!), we fought through the horrific bushfire season, the horrific Covid period, we fought on.
But as time seemed to speed by, we realised that this life we had built ourselves, although we loved it, with all our hearts, all we had built, we had just got to a place where it controlled us. Our family life suffered, our babies were growing up so quickly without us. We were always racing so fast, we failed to slow down to take it all in.
We knew we had to make some changes, we knew we couldn’t race at this speed forever. We knew what each business needed to grow onwards and upwards, but we just didn’t have the capacity, or brain space, or luxury of time to invest.
The cafe desperately needed more space. Every weekend, every school holidays it would have queues out the door. Folks so eager to come visit our cafe they would wait 90 minutes outside just for a table. Crazy. For a cafe, that’s just nuts. We needed more space inside our beautiful curved door. But we also needed more brain capacity, more gumption, more time to make this happen.
We knew in our hearts that for as long as Bespoke Letterpress and The Press Shop shared the same space, this could never happen. It was time time to let one go, to let it soar and find it’s wings and find it’s next chapter. It was time to say goodbye.
Meanwhile for bespoke we knew it needed changes. Our life was complex between our office seperate from our print shop. Our print shop attached to our store, a seperate warehouse in South west Sydney, a seperate storage location in the Highlands and a store in Sydney CBD. We really hadn’t made the logistics here easy. It was time to consolidate. We have big plans for growth but under this arrangement we struggled with the complexity of it all.
The time had come. Time to break apart these two businesses, that had sat side by side for the past 4 years. These businesses that married so beautifully together, but individually their lives were so very complicated with an overwhelmed captain trying to sail both ships unilaterally. It was time to say goodbye.
So whilst we thought long and hard about our future we heard about another beautiful local family who were looking to add to their business portfolio. They own a highly successful cafe in our neighbouring town Mittagong, and they had time and capacity in their lives to add another cafe in Bowral to their mix. A local family, professional hospitality folk, passionate about good coffee, good food and who loved and admired this cafe we had built. If we ever were going to hand over the reigns, this was exactly who we would trust with our baby.
But to do this, not only do we say goodbye to our cafe baby The Press Shop, we also say goodbye to our beautiful flagship print store. The end of this chapter, but the start of the next.
But it’s not all bad news, we will still be here in Bowral, in a new store we shortly begin to fit out. It may not have a blue curved door, but it has an excellent location, is a larger store and will become our new home for us here in our beautiful Bowral. Our printing presses will too remain here in the highlands, still in action, just not on show as they have been in our current location.
We have so many big plans for bespoke. There is big wonderful things coming and with time, capacity and a lighter load on our shoulders, we will finally will have time to bring these life.
We are eternally grateful to all our amazing staff have worked in both our cafe and retail store. To the kitchen teams out the back, the front of house, the baristas, the suppliers and all who have bought this idea to life. To our incredible bespoke staff who have worked in our store, in production, on the presses, although we are losing our beautiful home behind our blue curved door, the next chapter will be just as exciting.
To all those who visited, those who visited once, or time and time again. Those who made us your regular, or your stopover, or your excuse to visit our stunning town - thank you! To all those who helped bring the “dead end” of town to life again, we thank you.
We are incredibly excited for what’s ahead for The Press Shop. We know it will be amazing, we know that this change is what is needed, and we know that the next chapter, will be just as incredible as it’s first.
So we are preparing to say goodbye in early December. Goodbye to this marriage of ideas, this combination, all these crazy ideas, our cafe and our flagship store. But we say hello, hello to the next chapter. Hello to a little more family time, and a little more focus back on my very first business love, and that is letterpress.
I look forward to sharing this next chapter with you. ♥️