The cosy little café making a big difference

Nestled in the picturesque streets of Melbourne’s inner west, Sadie Black serves the community more than just delicious food made from seasonal produce.

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5 min read
The friendly café has become a tight-knit neighbourhood hub, employing young staff who live locally, and providing a space for the community to come together. And its founders, Meaghan and Chris Blackwell, are committed to ensuring a better future for the planet.
Staff at Sadie Black Cafe
Staff members at Sadie Black Cafe – many of the cafe’s staff live locally in Albion.

Building a business from scratch

With over 30 years’ collective experience across the hospitality industry, it’s no surprise Meaghan and Chris decided to head out on their own to open Sadie Black Cafe in Melbourne’s inner west. “I’ve always wanted to open my own business,” says Meaghan.

After years spent creating business plans for other people, the couple had the experience to know what would work. And their dream of opening an eco-friendly, community café in their hometown of Albion had been on the cards for a while – all they had to do was wait for the right opportunity. “Location is key, especially in suburban communities,” says Meaghan. “We’d been talking about it for two or three years, but we were waiting for the perfect space to open up.”

When a charming shopfront on Albion’s main shopping strip came on the market, it felt like a sign. “It was an older building, so it needed a bit of help when we took over,” says Meaghan. In order to reduce waste and save money, Meaghan and Chris decided to renovate the shop themselves – using completely recycled materials.

Sadie Black Cafe coffee counter
Handcrafted furniture made from recycled materials, and upcycled items at Sadie Black Cafe.

“We built benches from recycled timber, and most of our furniture was donated by locals, or found secondhand. It was a fun challenge, finding appropriate materials to recycle and pre-loved pieces to move into the space. But we managed to upcycle everything we have in the café, apart from the coffee machine,” Meaghan explains.

“We see running a sustainable business as essential,” says Meaghan.

They named the café after their golden labrador, Sadie.  “Everyone thinks she must be a black labrador,” says Meaghan. “But ‘Sadie Black’ is a reference to our surname ‘Blackwell.’”

A car parked in Albion, VIC
A scene from Albion featuring the suburb’s landmark silos, near Sadie Black Cafe.

Keeping it local

From the beginning, Sadie Black caused a buzz among the community. Not only were locals excited to have a brand-new café in the quiet suburb, but they were also pleased to see it run by a pair of locals who understood how to keep it true to its authentic Albion character.  “Before we even opened, there was a lot of social media hype,” says Meaghan. “People were walking in to say hello and offer help when the windows were still boarded up.”

And Sadie Black has kept true to its community-orientated roots. It’s a comfortable place for locals to hang out or simply pop in for a coffee. It hosts an array of neighbourhood events, sporting groups – and even events for community groups advocating for the protection of the local environment. “I’m really proud of it. We’ve made this a place for the community, and we’re passionate about advocating to protect our local creeks and waterways,” says Meaghan.

Chris Blackwell of Sadie Black Cafe
Chris Blackwell, co-owner of Sadie Black Cafe.

Members of the community bring them an abundance of local produce, which Meaghan transforms into cakes. And every food scrap is composted, including the coffee grinds, which locals pick up to use as fertiliser.

“Sustainability is always front of mind for us. That’s why we only use fully-recyclable Biopak coffee cups and paper straws. And why we make the effort to use produce from our own herb and veggie garden, and to source additional food locally,” says Meaghan.

“We also offer coffee discounts to customers who use reusable coffee cups like KeepCups. And some locals even get their breakfast as takeaway on their own plates brought from home. We really encourage that BYO idea when it comes to food packaging”.

Couple sitting at Sadie Black Cafe
Sadie Black Cafe – before the lunchtime rush.

A bright future

Today, it’s fair to say business is booming. Sadie Black now has 15 staff – all locals. Plus, they’ve just extended hours to seven days.

“It’s nice to have the support and thankfulness of the community,” says Meaghan.

Her advice to anyone thinking about opening a cafe? Do your research first. “Experience is key – not just anyone can open a food business. You also need to know your area, your demographic and find the right space so people will want to be there,” she explains.

But most importantly, you need to be passionate about your idea.

“If you love what you do, you’re more likely to do it well. We wear our heart on our sleeves, welcome everyone like a best friend, and run a sustainable business with great coffee and delicious food we love to eat.”

Check out Sadie Black Cafe on Instagram and Facebook.

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