Cloud picker's Pearse Street café: Where coffee and design meet
After six years of running their own roastery in Dublin, Cloud Picker’s Frank Kavanagh and Peter Sztal are giving their beloved coffee brand its own bricks and mortar spot.
Following their own careers in graphic design and corporate banking, Frank Kavanagh and Peter Sztal have been embraced by the coffee world both here and abroad since opening Ireland’s first micro roastery on Sheriff Street in 2013. As well as selling their perfectly roasted bean to cafés across the country, they also won best packaging design at last year’s World of Coffee event.
Peter is at the 2019 iteration in Berlin, when I call him for a chat. “It’s like geek level,” he laughs when I ask him what it’s like. “Around 12,000 people travel from all over the world for it, Ireland actually hosted it a few years back.” Exhibiting at it again this year, the coffee world is a familiar scene to them now, but when they founded Cloud Picker, it was on a much smaller scale. “We started very, very small,” Peter explains. “Literally just the roaster itself, a couple bags of coffee in a run down space on Sheriff Street with no heating.”
At the time, Peter was running the café in the Science Gallery on Pearse Street, not knowing that in six short years later not only would the roastery be on the international stage, but they’d be opening their own space almost directly across the road.
Finding the spot just next to the The Academy was quite a coincidence, Peter explains. They initially considered putting a café into the roastery so people could see the process while having a coffee or some lunch. However, chatting through it Peter and Frank realised it might encroach on the roasting side of things, which continues to be their main focus. “We just didn't want it to completely overtake our lives,” says Peter. That’s why, when they spotted a small 50-square-metre space on Pearse Street, it seemed like the perfect shopfront to their business.
“It had been there for years, all boarded up and we had never really paid any attention to it,” he tells me. “Then one day, we’re getting into the car outside and suddenly we spot two sheets of glass that had been put in the front.” Peter and Frank walked over, checked it out and had a chat with the estate agent. Two days later, their offer on it was accepted.
The space had been derelict for some time but the exposed brick walls had a charm that Peter and Frank were eager to keep. They decided to work with Cian Corcoran of DesignGoat to give the space the vibe they wanted. Not only a café, this would be their only customer-facing space, where they could sell coffee, kit and accessories, as well as giving the general public a feel for the brand. “There are [coffee] places that could make you feel inadequate as a customer. You go in and someone starts talking coffee at you,” Peter explains of what they wanted to avoid. “It’s like that McDonald's ad, you know, what was flat white?”
The design had to be right and Peter and Frank came to their first few meetings with Cian with a number of ideas in tow. “Cian was amazing, he was able to narrow down all those ideas, meeting after meeting.” Eventually, they settled on a proposal that would celebrate the space and its history as The Academy’s former projector room as well as their relaxed approach to their menu – one that was very open and almost fluid. The bar counter, which takes up much of the narrow space, is low and wide with a sink at one end. I suggest that it almost feels like a domestic kitchen island and Peter concurs. “Absolutely… customers can walk around and nearly look into and behind the counter, see what our guys are doing and how they're making coffee. It's that feeling of just getting involved and freedom of chatting to people”
This idea of openness was brought to the food too, which is Peter’s long-time passion. “I'm not a trained chef but my family had a restaurant back home, I'm originally from Poland. And my mom is literally the best chef in the world. I know every man will say that, but mine really is!” he laughs. It was important that the menu and the kitchen reflected the approachable, sustainable ethos they brought to the coffee, featuring dishes that they would like to cook and eat themselves. In that vein, the kitchen, located at the back, is not blocked off. Instead those loitering around the island counter can look right into the prep area.
Above it, a projector screens cartoons and shorts onto a sheet of glass – a homage to the building’s previous life. “It’s a little element, but if you're queuing up for coffee, you can watch a random Polish cartoon on it and smile,” says Peter. The entire café is a tribute really, not only to The Academy’s old projector room but also to the coffee Peter and Frank roast on Sheriff Street and the company they have built together.