Neck of the Woods – Georgie & Greg Matheson
By Rebecca Simpson.
Neck of the Woods is the latest café to welcome itself into the hustle of Myer’s Street, with the humble Hubby and Wife duo Georgie and Greg Matheson behind the chic, delicious and Instagram worthy café. After opening their first business Fuel Café five years ago, the couple sought out on a new business venture to open up Neck of the Woods with a clear objective in mind. With an enthusiastic and sociable team, Neck of the Woods is a standout when it comes to coffee, treats, interior design and service.
Here I chat to Georgie on how Neck of the Woods begun, all things design and why you’ll find them out enjoying family time on the weekends and not behind the coffee machine.
As some of our readers may not know, Neck of the Woods is your second café. What made you take the leap of faith to open another business and what is its point of difference from Fuel? We opened our first cafe, Fuel Coffee + Food, back in 2010 which was a culmination of more than 20 years industry experience and the drive to be in charge of our own future. Fuel is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall laneway cafe. It’s industrial, raw, and urbane. It’s quite masculine and bold in personality. Vintage push bikes adorn the red brick walls and there’s even a race spec motorbike parked in the rear corner. We always knew that we would eventually open another venue, but it was a matter of when and where. As for the leap of faith? There are always unknown quantities with any small business, but we have developed a successful business model, which works for us and I have complete faith in Greg’s ability – and still to this day, a resounding admiration for his professionalism and attention to detail. I wanted to create a space, which was a direct juxtaposition to Fuel. Step inside and you’ll be immediately struck by the abundant amount of natural light and its crisp and contemporary interior design and colour palette. It’s more feminine and elegant than Fuel, yet we still offer the same exceptional coffee by Campos, a small yet delicious seasonal menu and great customer service.
How did the name Neck of the Woods come about? A couple of years ago my son was a patient at St. John of God Hospital for the day and after many hours by his side, I asked one of the nurses desperately where I could grab a good coffee in this ‘neck of the woods’. For some reason, it just stuck!
What can people expect from a visit to Neck of the Woods café? I think Neck of the Woods is a really beautiful space. Its’ fresh and airy, calming and detailed and has gorgeous light quality. We’re blessed with an exceptional team of industry professionals who are more like family than employees. You’ll receive fabulous coffee, delicious, seasonal fair and friendly and welcoming service.
Something that I personally admire is the fact that your café’s don’t open on weekends; can you explain your philosophy behind this and why it works for you both? When Greg and I first met, he was working split shifts, nights, weekends and public holidays. We were like ‘passing ships in the night’! I’m sure many in hospitality can relate to that! After we married, we made a pact that if we were ever fortunate enough to become self –employed and had children, we wouldn’t work weekends as it would become ‘our time’ – ‘family time’. We’ve just stayed true to this and wouldn’t swap it for the world.
Where can we find you both on a typical Saturday and Sunday morning? If we’re in Geelong, we usually walk the dogs (and the kids ride their bikes) to either the Geelong West Social Club or King of the Castle. If we’re in Lorne, you’ll find us at Moons.
When designing Neck of the Woods did you have a well-defined design you knew you wanted to execute or was there a particular element you wanted and then the design stemmed on from it? I had a definite vision for Neck of the Woods in relation to the cabinetry, finishes and colour palette. In saying this, one of the first items I did purchase were the ‘wall dots’ from Ampersand on Pakington Street. This set the tone for the fabric selection on the banquette.
What are the real hero pieces in your café in terms of design? There are probably three main ones for me – the stunning ceiling pendant from Melbourne Designer Christopher Boots, the honed marble tiles used as the splashback and the black metal wall sculpture I designed and made which hangs above the banquette. I always knew that I wanted to use black cutlery and this seems to be a favourite with customers. I love their reactions when they see it for the first time.
Tell us about your warm and welcoming Neck of the Woods team? As mentioned already, our staff are really like family. Renee had her own successful country small business before moving to Geelong and previously worked with us at Fuel. She has the most gorgeous personality you could ever meet. Customers adore her! She’s our food Guru and is incredibly talented and passionate. Mitch has recently joined our team and has years of hospitality experience including Hotel Management – most recently at the Batesford. He has such a wonderful, calm demeanour and adds great balance and warmth. Greg has 25 years of hospitality experience and has managed cafes, restaurants and hotels around the world. I’ve never met anyone who has so much energy, passion and drive. He’s a perfectionist, a conversationalist and an enthusiast – people gravitate towards him, they want to hear his jokes and share his stories and he has the most incredible memory when it comes to customers names and their coffee! As for me, I’ve been in customer service all my life. I’ve learnt a lot about the industry from Greg and try my best to make people smile. I have a design background and am a qualified Interior Decorator, so it always makes me smile when people comment on how much they like the design of the cafe.
Tell us who is the typical Neck of the Woods customer? We’re still figuring this one out! So far the majority of customers include people associated with the nearby hospital and surrounding businesses. We also have parents who pop in for a coffee after the school drop off in the morning and lots of past friends and customers who come in to congratulate us on our new venture. We already have a steady stream of daily regulars, which is growing.
What are you looking forward to with Neck of the Woods? Watching it evolve and develop its own personality. I’m looking forward to the changing seasons with the courtyard trees. And being known as another destination for great Campos coffee with friendly service.