The Lawson Grove Shop has weathered the challenges of South Yarra’s competitive coffee market and remains successful. Picture: Reece Hooker

The inner south-eastern suburb of South Yarra has been a stalwart in Melbourne’s iconic coffee scene. Already amongst Melbourne’s most saturated coffee markets, a spate of new cafés has stores are feeling the pressure to stay popular.

‘It doesn’t matter where your cafe is, you have to do everything.’ said Jen, co-owner of the long-running Lawson Grove Shop.

In partnership with her husband Paul, Jen has outlasted the competition for over two years thanks in part to her business savvy. Since opening, Lawson Grove has achieved national acclaim, lauded by tastemakers Broadsheet and Fairfax’s Good Food. Despite their success, Jen still feels the mounting pressure from more competition.

‘I’ve got to be smart with my marketing. We got in with Channel 9 to feature on The Block last year. I’ve got chalk pavement writing every week, framed sign,  social media, flier drops. You’ve just got to be on it all the time. If you don’t cover all of your bases, someone else will get the business.’

The consequences of failure are swift and unforgiving. The venue on 15 Claremont Street has had new occupants three times in the space of three years. Presently filled by Steer Bar & Grill, the frequent turnover is validation of Jen’s claim.

Situated across from Steer sits the Glitch Food Store, tucked between an empty showroom and a deserted computer store. In its second month of operation, the struggle of sharing a street with five other coffee shops has made for a tough introductory period.

‘We’re not getting rich or anything, but here we are. We’re all still here and we’re surviving,’ remarks Boris, one of Glitch’s two owners.

‘Maybe it is [a challenge] now…but probably in the future competition won’t be a disadvantage with population growing here. There’s still a couple of thousand apartments going up. It’s probably a good thing people have a choice of cafés: it’s good for consumers and it may be beneficial to us.’

Population growth may indeed offer a solution for stores searching for sustainability. According to The City of Stonnington, population in the area has increased by over 5% in the past half decade. With the development of two skyscrapers underway, that rate will likely continue.

For startups like Glitch, such growth could be key to success. In the meantime, the challenge is on to survive. Whilst difficult, the longevity of Lawson Grove and other longstanding vendors demonstrates it is possible.



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