By: Dominic Jones
With a Star Wars movie coming out every year for the foreseeable future, Star Wars fans will be going to a lot of midnight premieres. With that comes staying up late--and with staying up comes coffee. A lot of coffee. Fans in Newcastle, Australia however, need not look any further than The Empire Coffee Co., be it the night before (or morning after) a midnight premiere or just on their way to work on an average day.
In just the first eight weeks after the Star Wars-inspired coffee shop had opened for business it became clear to owner Glen Fredericks that he had found a niche. But there was a problem. "It became obvious from almost the very start that the small shop front wasn't suited to our customers needs," explains Federicks, citing his customers desire to kick back, relax, and talk Star Wars in his shop, which just wasn't big enough. "I just couldn't handle the disappointment of more people turning up during the week (some were traveling in 2 hours to get to the shop) to be given great coffee, quality service, but not being able to sit down and kick back. So we closed while we've been on the hunt for a new location."
Because of this, Federicks is currently running a crowd funding campaign through Pozible to help with the expansion efforts. If The Empire Coffee Co.'s funding goal is reached, Federicks promises a coffee bar experience that is sure to attract Star Wars fans of all types.
Patrons of the shop can expect to find a variety of of Star Wars memorabilia on display, including action figures, Lego sets, and fan made props and costumes. But the highlight will be Tuesdays and Thursdays when Fredericks, a member of the 501st Legion, dons his stormtrooper armor to serve coffee. Knowing that Stormtroopers have a bad rap for being terrible shots, we wondered how Fredericks fared when he first attempted making coffee while clad in the iconic white armor? Not well, he explains, "It was almost next to impossible to make coffees while wearing the suit and helmet. Thankfully we had enough staff to cover that while I'd have photos taken with customers."
A Star Wars fan since age 6, Federicks explains that the shop wasn't originally going to have a Star Wars connection and it was an accidental suggestion from his wife that got the ball rolling. "She said four words, but from a completely different mindset," he explains, "The Empire Coffee Co. It was catchy and she was actually thinking old school British Empire. But my eyes lit up and by the time it clicked with her that I was thinking Galactic Empire I was already registering the business name and getting the domain name, Facebook vanity URL and Instagram username. She may have said 'No Star Wars!' but I was too busy screaming 'TOO LATE!'"
At first, the shop wasn't the Star Wars-fan haven it became. "Those first few days we only had a stormtrooper helmet sitting on the counter which people loved wearing and taking selfies," recalls Federicks. "But after some 'complaints' (such as "We want more Star Wars!") I then started to bring in toys from my collection and put them around the shop, wherever space was available."
Like Star Wars itself, The Empire Coffee Co. appealed to wide audience, from adults to kids to even a few Trekkies! Federicks explains that it was the presence of children that helped convince him that more space was needed, "When the school holidays came along, we had a steady flow of parents bringing in their children. You want to have an in-depth conversation about Star Wars? Have it with a 10 year old who loves the Animated Clone Wars series."
Federicks has big plans for the new location, which is still to be determined, and those plans go far beyond coffee, and even beyond Star Wars. Federicks envisions weekly trivia nights, "not just about Star Wars, but also throw it open to Star Trek, Dr Who and other films or shows who have a local fan base who'd like to use it as an opportunity to network." He also envisions workshops for kids during school holidays where talented local costume makes can pass on their knowledge to a new generation. "These are some of the ideas," says Federicks, "and I have plenty more. It'll be a cafe experience unlike anyone has seen before."
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