On Saturday 8 October, Melbourne’s The Brickie and The Barista will celebrate its first birthday, and the first anniversary since the passing of industry icon Eleonora Genovese.
Eleonora of Genovese Coffee lost her brave battle with cancer on 19 September 2015.
Eleonora lived in New York for more than a decade before returning to Australia in 2004 to join the family coffee roasting business. For more than 10 years Eleonora was involved in the Australian Specialty Coffee Association and World Barista Championship (WBC). She supported barista competitions at national and international level, and attended many WBC events around the world, in addition to her devotion to the family roasting business.
The Brickie and The Barista Owner Rhonda Dupont says its been a challenging year without her dear friend, but that “Elli” has been with her the entire way through the opening of her first owned and operated café.
“I’ve been in the industry 25 years. Elli waited an eternity for me to open my own café, but now I have,” Rhonda says. “Three days before her passing she was excited to come to my grand opening, talking about the manicure she was going to get in preparation for the event. She may not have been with me on the day in person, but she was definitely there in spirit.”
Rhonda met Eleonora 18 years ago when she was puling shots behind a coffee shop in Greville Street, Victoria.
“I was using Genovese Coffee at the time, and this big, loud woman with a strong, beautiful personality walked into the shop. From that moment on I told her we were going to be great mates. And we were,” Rhonda says. “I moved to many different cafés over the years, and to every one of them I bought Genovese Coffee with me, I just loved it so much. I became part of the ‘Geno’ family.”
Adam Genovese says he’s proud to see what Rhonda has accomplished.
“Ronnie has been a great ambassador for our brand wherever she has worked and it’s pleasing for all of us to see her succeeding in her own right at The Brickie and The Barista. Congratulations on your one year anniversary and thanks again on behalf of the Genovese family,” he says.
The Brickie and The Barista serves Genovese’s Brickie Blend for milk-based coffees, which Rhonda describes as “smooth”, just like her, and the Barista Blend for black coffees, “a little rough around the edge”, like her bricklaying partner and café co-owner John Paoli, whom she also describes as her main motivator.
And so the aptly named café was born, taking inspiration from John’s profession as the resident brickie, and Rhonda as an experienced barista. “Elli was never good with café names, but when I told her about this one she loved it,” Rhonda says.
On the side of the café’s brick exterior, local artist Andre helped Rhonda complete a mural in dedication of her late friend, symbolising Rhonda as a child holding a portafilter, and Eleonora as an angel in the heavens.
“Every time I make coffee I know that Elli is with me. I wanted to paint this wall in dedication of her and to celebrate my special friend,” she says.
Inside, The Brickie and The Barista café serves Genovese Coffee alongside cakes and small lunch items for Thornbury residents. Rhonda describes the area as an “up and coming” coffee district that is consumed with endless choice down nearby High Street and St George’s Road, but there was nothing in the quiet backstreets of Hutton Street where The Brickie and The Barista resides.
“There was nothing here for 36 years but a hair dressing salon. We bought the shop and house in one purchase, and we just love it. This area has diversity, dedicated regulars and a thriving coffee culture that epitomises community and family. If you want quality, easy food options and friendly service, that’s what we do best. I’m behind the machine five out of the six day’s we’re opened, and I demand perfection,” Rhonda says.
Rhonda is also a member of the Women in Coffee Association, a group she is proud to be part of.
“It’s been wonderful to join a group that makes you feel strong and empowered as a woman in this industry. I go about my work holding my head just that little big higher,” she says.
On 8 October, The Brickie and The Barista will celebrate the year that’s been, the friends its made along the way, and the legacy of a lady that’s inspired Rhonda to follow her coffee passion.
Between 8am and 2pm locals can expect to meet “The Brickie” himself, balloon giveaways, face painting, lollie bags and coffee of course.
“It’ll be business as usual, with a few special twists along the way,” Rhonda says.
“I know if Elli was with me on Saturday she’d have a cry, then say: ‘You did it girl’. She’d be so proud. Deep down I know she’ll be there, just watching from above.”
Ray Genovese says Eleonora is still very much a part of the Genovese company, just like his mum and dad are.
“Their legacy ensures the longevity of our philosophy towards the industry,” he says. “Rhonda doesn’t just have a relationship with A. Genovese & Sons, she has a connection. She has been honing her skills in the café industry for a very long time, longer than most coffee companys out there, so with the combination of her personality and knowledge of coffee it was only a matter of time before she opened her very own venue. We are proud to be her coffee supplier. Her energy is always a welcome sight and I wish her a very happy first birthday with many more to come.”
27 Hutton St, Thornbury VIC 3071.