She’s Lady Bear and he’s Big Bear. He runs the six-month-old café, so they named it after him. “I didn’t want something obvious like ‘espresso something’ or a café named after a street name or a postcode,” says Kris Stephens.
“I guess I’m a bit of a big bear. It’s a broad name, with plenty of different meanings and kids love it. But they aren’t specifically our target market,” he says.
Stephens and his wife Kacie had talked about running their own café and found the right space when their second child, Hugo, was just a week old. Kacie had worked in real estate and Kris was in property renovation and redevelopment.
“This end of Glen Huntly Road is a bit of a dead, forgotten place,” says Kris. “But it’s close to the train station and there’s no other competition. Thousands of people catch that train every day and it’s close enough to home for me to walk to work.”
The interior design was by friend Paul Hecker, of interior-design company Hecker Guthrie, and the bear was painted by artist Aaron McKenzie.
There’s a short daily menu with a good selection of breakfast offerings, including a moreish house-made muesli, and muffins are baked in small batches from the open kitchen.
A Joe La spent four years working at the RACV City Club in Bourke Street, learning hospitality nous and coffee making under pressure. He thought the next step was his own café, so he ran Café 3A in Brunswick for a short time, using coffee roasted by a small independent company.
“But I wasn’t ready for it,” he says. “I think making coffee and running a business are two separate things. I prefer making coffee. There’s less stress.”
La has been at Big Bear for just over a month and says his six-day-a-week role is ideal: “I can leave the stress to Kris.”
The café uses Genovese’s Super Brazil blend and has a small two-group Wega machine on its front counter.
An espresso using the dark-roasted blend will be a careful extraction, of good temperature and consistency, with notes of dark chocolate and spice. La says his latte art is still “pretty basic” but a flat white will be nicely etched with a single rosetta and the brew will be as full of good cheer as it looks.