For the two co-owners of Vancouver’s Platform 7 Cafe, coffee means very different things.
Italian born Livio remembers coffee drinking as a slow and social process, rich espresso served with sweets after dinner with the family. For Irish/Scottish Marke, however, coffee was served in steaming mugs at the crack of dawn at the family’s Ferry Meat Market.
Regardless of how it was served, coffee has played an important role for both Livio and Marke. As ex-stockbrokers, coffee was central to the lives as both a habit and a ritual. When the Global Financial Crisis hit and the pair needed to find an alternative career, coffee was the natural choice.
Platform 7 opened its doors in the Fall of 2013, and was quite unlike anything East Vancouver had seen before. It was designed like the inside of a Victorian London train station, decked out with a traditional glass ceiling and wooden chairs to match.
“When we first saw the location, it was a takeout pizza place,” says Livio. “It was really just the four walls...we took the space, and rebuilt from there.”
Quirky, cute, and a fun change from the cookie-cutter coffee shop locals were used to, Platform 7 was an inviting place to stop, open a book, and enjoy a cup of coffee. Before long, a second location was opened in Kitsilano. Following the same theme, the second Platform 7 was designed after a Belle-Époque Parisienne train station. Again, the locals loved it, and it was clear their place among Vancouver’s most loved coffee shops was set.
After years of cherishing their daily coffee ritual among the hustle and bustle of the finance world, Livio and Marke wanted to ensure that their service and experience was special. Having great coffee was only the start: for Livio, their success was just as much about the ambience and service as it was the product.
“We had to ask ourselves, why would a customer choose our place over another?” says Livio. “We worked backwards from there. The room needed to be beautiful, nice music, friendly people behind the bar. Coffee is a special time of day.”
Of course, at the core of their offering was high quality coffee. Marke, who took on the sourcing, went chasing some of the ‘big names’ in the roasting industry, managing to snag boutique American brand Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
Their offering is extensive: Platform 7 does everything from cold brew coffee (on tap!) to a traditional Con Panna - but surely their more impressive items come courtesy of their coffee bar. Using modern devices such as an Aeropress or glass Chemex, coffee is brewed with an expert sense of drama and performance. The Chemex, for example, is shaped like a glass egg timer, with ground coffee poured into a paper filter in the middle. Water is poured over the top, and the coffee filters through. Slow? Yes. Worth the wait? Absolutely.
Clearly, the commitment to the perfect cup of coffee is strong with Platform 7.
In an attitude that feels more high-end cocktail bar than local coffee shop, Livio is dedicated to making his guests feel as welcome as possible. Whilst many cafes look for high turnover - and higher profits - Livio is focused instead on building a loyal customer base.
“It’s all about the relationship between the barista and the customer,” says Livio. “They are our guests - we want them to feel that they are welcome, and that they are getting something special.”
The devil is in the details: latte art, hand delivery, or the theatrical preparation are all elements that take Platform 7 to a boutique offering. Indeed, among the ‘cattle call’ of modern coffee shops, Livio likes to think that they are returning a social aspect to the coffee ritual.
East Vancouver and Kitsilano are two pretty different sides of town. East Vancouver is gritty and tough, gentrified in recent years with creatives, artists, and advertising agencies. Kitsilano, on the other hand, is a waterfront suburb with a squeaky clean image - it is, after all, the home of yoga brand Lululemon. Unlike some franchises who may choose to change the look and feel depending on location, Platform 7 went with ‘completely identical’ strategies. For them, it always has been, and always will be, about the coffee.
“Vancouver is a real coffee town,” says Livio. “There’s lots of competition - but the way I look at it, the more people who are into coffee, the better we become.”
There’s nothing really that different about the two cafes: both have dodged flash-in-the-pan hospitality trends in favour for authentic coffee and expert service. Livio is surprised at the idea of changing his concept for interchangeable audiences - “Why would we? It’s all about the coffee, at the end of the day.”
As first timers to the coffee industry, Marke and Livio found Silver Chef through a supplier, and said that it gave them the chance to rent out items they were otherwise unable to.
“It was really helpful, and great service,” says Livio of his work with Silver Chef.
On their website, Livio says that he likes to think that “...perhaps, in that coffee cup we are handing you, we are serving "Joy."” And with their professional commitment to great service and boutique product, we can’t think of anything more joyful that a coffee at Platform 7.