In the month of May, Alexander Hall opened Rosella on the Lower East Side and Brunswick in Bed-Stuy, but he ain’t done yet: “There’s another Brunswick opening in Windsor Terrace in early August,” says the chatty Australian. “Then there’s two more in Harlem towards the end of the year.”
The uptown storefronts aren’t yet a done deal (Hall is aiming to be close to City College and Columbia University) but it’s clear a mini empire is in the works for the Aussie who moved to New York in 2005 at the beckon of a friend who had a spare room in Brooklyn.
“The plan was to come and get an idea from America and bring it back to Australia,” he says. “But when I got here, there just wasn’t anywhere to get a coffee. There was a huge gap in the market.”Of course, there were some places to get a coffee – for instance, the East Village’s Bluebird, which he and Sabrina Godfrey bought in 2011 after opening Milk Bar in Prospect Heights in 2009. But Hall insists his cafes are different from the norm. “Before I opened, coffee shops were like the one on Friends: mismatched furniture, dark and dusty,” he says, describing his own aesthetic as “very modern, clean and angular.”
At Brunswick, you’ll find brick and white-tiled walls, with pale wooden table tops and angular pendant lights. “I use a lot of plants,” Hall adds. “There’s a plant wall at Rosella which is literally killing me, but it looks nice.”
Aside from the design touches, one thing makes Hall’s empire stand out: at least 13 Australians have been hired across all of his cafes, which makes for a very laidback atmo.One of several NYC “Aussiepreneurs” singled out last month by The Australian, Hall says his time at Melbourne’s Stokehouse group taught him “proper hospitality,” unlike the “churn ‘em and burn ‘em” attitude he observed in New York.
The Brunswick menu comprises simple, fresh café fare, from avocado toast with whipped feta to generous salads. These days, Hall spends a good $20,000 to $25,000 a week purchasing about 600 pounds worth of single-origin coffee, sourced from Counter Culture.
Those numbers will only grow when he opens the Windsor Terrace location at 240 Prospect Park West. After that, Hall has his eye on national expansion. “You go outside of New York, even to DC, and the best coffee shop isn’t even above average,” he notes. “I’m actually looking outside of New York now to expand into DC and Philadelphia. I was just in Iowa looking at spaces. There’s just so many opportunities.”