If you ask cafe owner Tim Skinner he’ll tell you there’s a sense of renewal sweeping down Maitland’s High Street.
It’s not just The Levee’s new look or the new faces moving into town – it’s a cultural shift that starts with a cup of coffee.
“Coffee is such a flexible medium,” Mr Skinner said. “It’s the start and finish of most peoples’ day.”
Mr Skinner opened The Bikesmith espresso bar “for coffee lovers” less than a month ago but business is booming and the crowds are diverse.
“Maitland’s always been a pub town,” he said.
“But there’s a strong love of coffee around here too and there haven’t been a lot of places to give people what they’re looking for.
“Specialty coffee was, until recently, all but non-existent.”
Mr Skinner pointed at the other new cafe arrivals as a proof Maitland residents hungered for quality coffee.
Taking cues from Sydney’s buzzing inner city cafe suburbs, namely Surry Hills and Redfern, Mr Skinner set out to create a cafe thriving with activity.
To that ends, the Bikesmith will eventually incorporate a bicycle workshop (hence the name) and live music nights.
Plenty of establishments have large tables to cater to large groups but, Mr Skinner said, that’s not why the Bike Smith has one sitting smack-bang in the middle of the cafe. It’s about encouraging community, sharing space, rubbing elbows with the neighbours.
“That table, alone, is what we’re about,” he said.
“We almost provided people with no other choice than to sit next to each other.
“I love coming in and seeing people at that table with their laptops, doing their work, paper everywhere.
“We had options if people didn’t take to it, but they’ve been really comfortable there.”
Mr Skinner, his wife and extended family have built the Bike Smith by night for the last five months. It’s been a labour of love and he still works full time while the cafe establishes itself.
“This is my lifestyle job,” he said. “I want to live 200 metres up the road, walk down, have some coffee. This is where I want to be.”