The photo for this article was provided by the interviewee.
Situated in Govanhill, Glasgow, Short Long Black Coffee serves baked goods and speciality coffee. I recently spoke with the owner of Short Long Black, Darryl, about what it's like to run the coffee shop, the importance of choosing a good location for your shop, and the sorts of tasks he takes on in his work as a coffee shop owner. I hope you enjoy the interview.
For my readers, can you tell me about yourself and Short Long Black?
My name is Darryl. I am the founder of Short Long Black (SLB) Coffee based in the south side of Glasgow. I have worked in the coffee industry for almost 10 years now, mostly as a barista and a coffee trainer. I set up the cafe back in April 2018 with a view of creating an environment that I myself would be happy to work in had I not owned it. The cafe has a strong focus on fresh in-house bakes and high quality coffee.
Why did you decide to start a specialty coffee shop?
Prior to opening SLB I had worked in various hospitality jobs for over a decade and had always wanted to own my own place. I took a year out of hospitality and worked cleaning roof gutters in order to save up enough money to start up SLB. There weren’t any quality focused coffee shops where I was living (nearest one was all started here which was an over 20 minute walk away for me) so I really wanted to open something close by.
To what extent does location play a role in coffee shops? How did you decide where to set up shop?
You can’t understate location. You generally need to be in close proximity to your market. Most people will not drastically go out of their way for a cup of coffee. I chose the site for SLB because of its close proximity to the park and train station. There are a few great cafes on the street, but none of them were focused on quality coffee, so I thought it would be a great location for the type of business I wanted to open.
How much coffee do you prepare on a daily basis?
I currently don’t get to make as much coffee as I would like to. Last year we converted the back of the shop into a bakery, so I have been spending most of my time baking. Out with that I take on general duties such as accounts, paperwork, orders, etc.
What proportion of your customers would you say are regulars versus new customers? What do you do to ensure new customers, who may not be familiar with speciality coffee to the extent of regulars, have a positive experience?
A high number of our customers are regulars, and as such, we have a good relationship with a lot of people within our community. We focus heavily on customer service, with the goal of valuing customers time whilst delivering a high quality product. Focusing on good customer service helps break down any barriers for new customers.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to start a career as a barista or stay on the coffee shop side of the industry?
Get palate training as soon as you can. Making an espresso is relatively easy (the motions of it anyway, and can be taught in a day) but actually understanding what is going on in the cup is a lot more difficult. Developing your palate is crucial to understanding how to make a good cup of coffee. Training takes time, but will undoubtedly make you a much better barista in the long run.
What is your favourite part about managing a coffee shop?
My team. They are an absolute joy to work with.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
The biggest challenge so far has been remodelling the business in order to ensure no staff cut backs in the face of COVID. This was made much easier by the fantastic team at SLB. They got on board with the changes immediately, and helped completely restructure the business. It was still a very stressful time though.
What is your favourite snack to have with a cup of coffee?
A soft amaretti biscuit. It goes so well with coffee.
Where do you source your coffees for Short Long Black?
We have a great relationship with Thomson’s Coffee Roasters and they help us source green coffee. Currently we have Shyira, a Rwandan coffee imported by Raw Material.
What is your favourite speciality coffee drink?
First thing in the morning I love an espresso, but during the day I prefer drinking filter coffee. You just get a much more clear flavour and a sense of terroir and process from filter coffee.