There are no plush sofas, no artwork or music, or any of the other typical cafe trappings that create an atmosphere of invitation and belonging.
There is no front door at all. There is only one bright red shipping container in Palmerston North’s industrial zone.
However, Mouthwater Coffee does have its perks, which come in the form of the conversation and sense of community that owner and barista Andrew Feldon values just as much as the brew.
“It’s almost as if it’s Cheers, where everyone knows everyone else.
Mouthwater not only brews coffee, but also sells Babco coffee beans and pastries. “People come to chat and engage in a little banter. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to be able to accompany them on their journey through whatever they’re going through.”
Feldon and his team provide a caffeine fix for everyone, from commuters to tradespeople and at-home parents venturing out for a few minutes of adult conversation, from their two coffee karts on Tremaine Ave and Main St.
“We are attempting to create a community out of it. It’s not just about the transaction for me. We care about people and want to interact with them, but the constraints make this difficult.
“Normally, we’d attend festivals, weddings, and corporate events as well, but that simply does not happen anymore.”
Mouthwater, like countless other small hospitality businesses, had fought its way past the red alert level restriction, as people increasingly work from home and avoid social gatherings.
Andrew Feldon is as concerned with people as he is with coffee.
Patronage at both of its coffee carts has decreased.
Feldon stated that while business was “a little lean,” he had not encountered any “existential questions” about the future of Mouthwater Coffee.
It was also difficult to recruit staff, but the four he had assembled formed an excellent team.
“That is a blessing. I believe that anyone who works in a small business has moments when they question what they do and why they do it. However, if you’re passionate about something, you’ll find a way to be creative and overcome.”
Mouthwater Coffee has been in business for five years, but Feldon has worked in the industry for seventeen years.
He has worked all over the country but always returns to Manawatu.
“The community in which we live, as well as the environment, are fantastic when everyone looks out for one another. Individuals simply have so much time for one another.
“That is what I adore about it all. Even if it’s simply lending an ear to others when they’re in need of someone to talk to, or connecting people in order to make new friends and connections.
“It’s truly remarkable what coffee can accomplish in terms of bringing people together.”
The current climate has exacerbated the difficulty of those connections. Masks, withdrawal, and people remaining at home all contributed to a disconnect between his clientele and community.
“It’s difficult when you feel as though you can’t do as much as you want for customers.”
Feldon was appreciative of his community’s support and was aware that customers occasionally purchased coffee to support his business rather than to quench their thirst.