Welcome back! You’re just in time for the second instalment in the history of Black Sheep. If you missed the first part — The First Coffee Cart in Brisbane — take a read and then come back here to find out what happened next.
Now that Mark and Katie had decided it was time to get serious about the business, they needed to come up with a name.
“We went through all sorts of names,” says Katie. “There was The Cranky Donkey. Mark’s surname is Gloftis so we joked at one point that it was going to be Glofie’s Coffee.”
The naming fun even spilled over into the coffee itself. Mark was continually honing his roasting, doing test batches and creating different blends each month, inviting friends to taste and give feedback. “We would come up with funny names for the blends,” Katie recalls. “We had the May-be blend (in May). The Hairy Wombat was one month.”
“There were a few marsupials,” Mark laughs.
To make the final call, Mark sat down with a graphic design firm in the Valley and went through the long list of names. The winner was Black Sheep Coffee (though it was very nearly Brown Sheep) and the sheep packaging was born.
Around this time Mark was traveling to Melbourne and Sydney on tasting trips to see what he liked in other roasters. Back home, after about 50 different incarnations and many tastings, he created the much-loved Feeling Woolly Blend (this is also when our decaf, Greener Pastures came about).
Business was booming at the Rocklea markets. The staff had increased to four people working both days to keep up with demand. But it still wasn’t enough. Even though there were another two separate places selling coffee at the markets, the queue for Black Sheep was starting to run about 50 customers deep, snaking around past the flower stands and the Greek vendors selling souvlaki and yoghurt.
It was more than Mark’s stainless steel cart (now complete with inbuilt hot and cold water system, sinks, fridge and CD player) could handle alone. So in 2010 they upgraded to a new machine (the Synesso now in use at the Roastery in Woolloongabba) and decided to open a secondary cart at the market on Saturdays, to take the overflow.
They hired another four staff to operate it (taking the tally to eight) and began going through roughly 25kgs of coffee on Saturdays and 15kg on Sundays. Every weekend morning they’d wheel the carts out, pop the tents up, set up and then pack down again at the end of the day. It was a big job!
At this point the market owners offered Mark and Katie a Colorbond tin shed to use as a permanent shop. It was a step up, but it was also ridiculously hot. “It was like a greenhouse,” says Mark.
The shed had a clear, perspex roof and Katie was continually sunburned through it. “I gave Mark an ultimatum,” she says. “We need to fix this or I can’t work any more.”
And so the fit out began. “We started insulating the walls. Put in lights and a decent roof. We tiled. Plumbing. We put up wallpaper. We did a full refit,” says Katie. “I think we were about six months in that gorgeous fit out and that’s when the 2011 floods happened.”
In the next instalment of the History of Black Sheep, learn about the heartache of the 2011 Brisbane Floods, the unexpected surprise Mark and Katie found when they were finally able to return to the shed and how they came back stronger than before.