It’s no secret that Canberrans love a good cup of coffee. But once you get south of Tuggeranong there’s very few suburban cafes in the Lanyon Valley.
Four years ago Nate Swift was working as a community chaplain at the Gordon Community Centre and was looking for a better way to engage more people in the space.
“While the community centre does a great job of delivering certain programs to meet certain needs it wasn’t functioning as a community hub like we wanted it to,” he told Region.
The answer? Coffee! Nate realised that a good suburban cafe could act as a way to build community, reduce social isolation, and raise money for the centre in the process. With the help of the Mill House Social Ventures program they launched a coffee cart which served coffees at community events. This year with funding from Hands Across Canberra Nate and his wife Tara have opened a cafe called Little Luxton in partnership with the Gordon Community Centre.
“Our mission is to leverage Canberra’s coffee culture to connect community resources with community needs in the Lanyon Valley,” he said.
“Coffee becomes the thing that helps us to connect with a lot more people so that there will be a flow-on in increased donations, increased volunteering and increased engagement.”
A dollar from every coffee sold goes to fund programs at the community centre like the emergency relief food pantry, weekly playgroup, English classes for recent migrants and more. Customers are also encouraged to ‘pay it forward’ either in-store or online by donating the cost of a coffee. The team has already raised over $9500 for the community centre, and it’s also brought increased visibility to the work being done there. While the fundraising aspect is important, Nate explained that the social enterprise model works by taking a genuine commercially viable business and using it for social good.
“We noticed how some of the other suburban cafes were really buzzing and rejuvenating little shopping centres,” he said.
“We thought if we can do that to the same standard as Common Grounds, or Stand by Me or Fox & Bow do then people will come.”
Little Luxton uses coffee beans from Yass roasters six8, and has a small but tasty range of toasties made with Three Mills Sourdough and Pialligo Smokehouse meats. There are also pastries and sweets available, including delicious ricotta doughnuts they call ‘luxnuts’.
The Gordon Community Centre also partners with Anglicare and Lanyon Valley Anglican Church. Nate says that they’re planning to use those connections to participate in a training program to help young people gain skills and experience in hospitality. That will likely start early in the new year. For now, they’re working on making sure the cafe is running smoothly while they build their customer base.
Little Luxton has only been open for seven weeks but the team have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly they’ve become a local favourite, proving that there was real need for good coffee in the area. With plenty of space for pram parking and a sandpit they’re very popular with parents and families, but also see lots of retirees and people working from home frequenting the cafe.
The cafe has become a hub where the community can gather to socialise and stay connected, and although they’re only a small space Nate is sure they’ll have a big impact:
“We may only be a Little Luxton, but a little Luxton goes a long way!”
Little Luxton is open Monday to Friday 7 am to 2 pm at Gordon shops, 110 Lewis Luxton Avenue, Gordon.