At 11 o’clock on a Wednesday morning, a cafe tucked away in Dandaloo Village Shopping Centre bustles with customers.
Retirees meet up for a cuppa and chat, busy mums with kids nip in for a treat, and workers grab a mid-morning coffee.
Krema + Co cafe is one of Dapto’s best-kept foodie secrets. Without beachfront views it relies on good food and good service to attract customers – and it delivers.
Any foodies who wander in will notice some special ingredients on the menu. Putting native Australian ingredients centre-stage has been a key part of the business from its inception.
The cafe and its staff have been finalists in the Illawarra Business Awards for three years running now – not bad for a business that will celebrate its third birthday in March.
Barista Chloe Suckelis was 17 when she started working at the cafe, shortly after it opened.
She says the team is united in their passion for beautiful food, great coffee, and community-focused customer service.
“I’m very passionate about coffee. I have been ever since I was 15,” she says.
“Being able to give a customer a nice quality product to start their day, having that sort of influence on people really makes you feel good.
“We all want to make sure our customers feel welcome and comfortable the second they walk through the door.
“You want to make people feel special and do that bit extra, like helping our elderly customers if they have issues with their phone.
“The cooks are always wanting to try different methods and recipes, to bring something new to the area that hasn’t been done before.
“When we got our first finalist award it felt so surreal, we were just over the moon, and then they kept coming.
“It shows that hard work and passion show through, and if you put in the work you get rewarded in the end.”
Another point of pride for the cafe staff is the use of native Australian ingredients.
Owner Bladen Holloway is an Aboriginal man, and he and his staff worked with renowned Indigenous chef Mark Olive to learn how to best incorporate Australian flavours such as pepper berry, lemon myrtle, wattleseed and strawberry gum.
Chloe says the ingredients are a hit and chosen by customers over more traditional flavours.
They also feature heavily on Krema + Co’s catering menu. The team provides catering for the University of Wollongong and Indigenous group Yerrabingin.
“We use Indigenous ingredients heavily in our catering products, so we do a chicken and yam with lemon myrtle salad, a beef and mountain pepper berry salad,” she says.
“Then in our sweets we like to incorporate strawberry gum and wattleseed into cheesecakes, and we do a lemon myrtle scone as well.
“We use a bush tomato chutney with our bacon and egg rolls, and use a lot of kangaroo too – it’s a really good product when you cook it right.
“A lot of people around here haven’t tried the native products before, so it’s good to introduce other people to the flavours our country produces.
“The lemon myrtle scones are a big seller, and the majority of our customers will pick something with a native product in it over one without.”
The cafe opened its doors early in the pandemic, and the team persevered through a rocky start. Through plenty of hard work and support from locals, they survived, and now offer an eat-in breakfast and lunch menu as well as counter options.
“It was hard to build up clientele, but we used our display fridge products to our advantage, and we’ve picked up a lot of loyalty from being there for people through lockdown,” Chloe says.
“We always try to look out for our community first, because without them we wouldn’t be here.
“Some days I wake up and think about the impact we’ve had on the community just by making coffee and food we’re passionate about.
“It’s unreal, it’s a very fulfilling feeling.”
Krema + Co is in the Dandaloo Shopping Centre, 41-49 Brownsville Ave, Brownsville; find them on Facebook.