From backgrounds as varied as music, film, photography, and advertising, these Malaysians have decided to start up their own cafés. So what does it take to make the leap to brews and beans? They shared their experiences with Poskod.MY.
A neighbourhood no stranger to café hoppers, SS15 Subang recently welcomed a new coffee hangout. Morningwood MY took over what was previously Flat White, but you may already recognise some of the founders running the joint: Grim Film’s Jared Lee, JinnyboyTV’s Reuben Kang, Keng Lee Sim, bassist of local band SevenCollar T-Shirt and his wife, financial director Majorie Cheng.
The interesting choice of name was inspired by the café’s homely, wood-themed features – with a wink at customers on the cheeky double meaning. Jared tells me that since he was a kid, he always wanted to open a coffee shop – and now, he has realised that childhood dream.
“My few main passions since last time was always drawing, animation and film-making so I always told myself that one day if I get the chance to open my own place it has to have all these elements.”
Heavily influenced by the art scene, the café acts as an extension of its imaginative founders – from having talented, homegrown indie artists like Hsulynn Pang, Anwar Suhaimi and Marianne Tan decorate their walls, to the removable paintings that can make way for a mini art space, to leaving a wall blank specifically for projected film screenings.
“If budget wasn’t a constraint, I wanted a cafe where people can say like, ‘Oh I had my five minute holiday here in this place’. So at least for now, I get to create a place where people can feel at ease and just chill.”
You’ll notice Reuben or Jared working the counter and bar, waiting to take your orders with eager smiles.
Visit Morningwood café often enough and you’ll notice Reuben or Jared working the counter and bar, waiting to take your orders with eager smiles. “We’re here almost everyday and we want people to feel like it’s very personalised – like there is a personal touch to everything that we do lah.”
Not looking to just ride on their YouTube popularity, these guys mean business when it comes down to all things coffee-related, and assures that they serve decent coffee – if not the best in the area. However, lacking an F&B background posed as the greatest struggle for them so far.
“We have filmmakers, we got musicians and we have a finance director. So, there was a lot of troubleshooting and things that we have to learn from scratch by ourselves. We have to learn a lot of things like the recipes, how to handle the bar and personally, we’re still undergoing coffee training. We hired a few professional baristas and the good thing is that the staff that we have are really, really kind with their knowledge.”
One thing’s for sure – they got their work cut out for them, juggling between their full-time careers and running a newly opened café. For Jared, it’s writing scripts for his first web series and handling Grim Film ongoing projects and on top of that – he has his own wedding to plan with his fiancée, Marianne. How does he do what he does and still find time to sleep?
“That’s why I’m going to die soon,” he jokes.
Jared is optimistic about the growing coffee scene in Malaysia and if all goes well for the café in the next six months, we might even see a second Morningwood MY spot in the works.
Sian Marie Low
Otherwise Café, in Kelana Jaya, is an eerie teatime experience that’s quite different from many of the cafés in the Klang Valley.
Founded by Chuan Looi, a Malaysian fashion photographer, Otherwise Café’s decor is somewhat quirky and gothic with furnishing mostly created by the local furniture company Dumpwerk. “Most of our furniture here is up for sale. Everything is handcrafted,” says Chuan.
The interior décor also includes bridal wear displays that promote local designers. “We support local talent especially in the fashion industry so we collaborate with various bridal designers and such to compliment the atmosphere of our café.” There is also a performance space for live music.
The interior of the venue is on par with Chuan’s style of fashion photography which makes the café all the more artistic and appealing. The café’s logo is an owl. “I chose for the logo design to be an owl with an eye in the centre of its head to represent wisdom in search of human brains to pick on for creativity.” There are also antique books and ornaments, as well as an elaborate wall mural of a bat.
The café is right next to Chuan Looi’s photography studio, enabling him to juggle the café and the studio with ease.
Otherwise Café has been running for approximately seven months and its location could not be more perfect for the photographer himself as it’s placed right next to his studio, Yipieyaya Studio (founded in 2001), enabling him to juggle the management of the café as well as the studio with his partner, Stella Ng. “We’re a small team but it’s easier for us to manage the workload because the location of my studio and café conveniently sits side by side.”
Serving homemade cakes, cold-pressed juices, tea and coffee, Chuan shares that the best sellers are some of Stella’s homemade recipes: the tiramisu and variety of delicious fruit fusion cheesecakes.
“I didn’t like coffee at first, but I liked the idea of having people hanging out in one place to chill and, at the same time, being served good coffee. At that time, there weren’t that many coffee joints around [in Malaysia], so we thought it would be a good idea.”
Zekry Mohd Nor first set up Mollydookers Coffee Bar almost a decade ago. Since opening their tiny original outlet in Plaza Damansara, they have since expanded with a new, bigger outlet, as well as more spots in Damansara Perdana and KLIA2.
The name originates from the Australian slang term for a left-handed person. Zekry and his partner, Hashraf Hashim are both left-handed, explaining its personal relevance.
Zekry, his wife, Tsarina Tajuddin and his partner, Hashraf Hashim are all Curtin University alumni but with differing expertise.
“Basically, I have an advertising background. My wife comes more from a digital agency background and my other partner graduated in architecture and ran a few businesses. In terms of setting up the café, my partner consults in terms of finance and my wife, she’s good in operations, so she’ll be in charge of that. With my creative background, I will be charge of the creative ideas. So all of us practically do our own things but it works well.”
Zekry was the creative designer at an advertising agency before 2010 when he decided to take on Mollydooker’s full-time.
Zekry was the creative designer at an advertising agency before 2010 when he decided
to take on Mollydooker’s full-time. One of the creative ideas that came about was Mollydooker’s owl mascot that is featured on its logo.
“We hired a friend, who’s a designer. We decided to go with an animal concept and choose an owl. A lefty is different and unique. They’re the ones that think the opposite of what righties think. That’s why our owl is upside down. The eyes are also coffee rings and its feathers are shaped like coffee beans. Owls are also nocturnal, as a night-time coffee drinker would be.”
Zekry thinks that ambience and atmosphere is what truly sets the café apart from others. In fact, their Bukit Damansara spot utilizes their ground and ceiling space to reflect a creative birdcage-inspired design as an homage to their owl mascot.
“You have a lot of cafes saying they have the best coffee. I want to say that but I feel that the ambience is more important. Our customers might say Mollydooker’s has the best coffee but customers of other café’s might say theirs is the best. So that’s why I feel our location, look and feel are our specialty.”
However that doesn’t mean they don’t place importance on the quality of their coffee beans.
“At the moment we’re using Artisan Coffee but hopefully by this year we’re going to make our own coffee. We’re going to roast our own beans. So stay tuned for that.”
Besides coffee, they’ve made t-shirts and have so far collaborated with food truck Curbside Cantina but Zekry sees bigger plans in the future.
“Hopefully, Mollydooker’s can be a recognized brand throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore in five years. That’s the plan. In 10 years, Australia and further. In 20 years, the whole world.”
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