our story extended
THE FULL STORY
It feels like it’s time to put pen to paper, to capture the story of Meraki.
What follows is the journey of my heart and soul poured into a place that was always intended to be created to serve a community with love and passion.
All my love,
In June 2012...
...Meraki was born over a cup of tea. At the age of 24, as I took over Jessica and Luke Grant’s beloved Nook in Ryneveld Street, I barely had a month’s salary in my bank account, but a head full of dreams.
Best explained by the words of my sister;
“I have been lucky enough to be a witness of every step of this story. It all started when we lived together in a tiny apartment in Stellenbosch, without jobs and without a cookin’ clue what lies ahead of us. What we did do very well though, was dream. We dreamed of spaces combining people, food and design. We would sit in bed and take turns to close our eyes and envision it. The one with a blank page jotting, the other with eyes closed dictating the dream as they see it. ( i still have my A4 ) On Sundays we would make my dad drive to dilapidated buildings around Stellenbosch and we would evaluate if it’s fixable or located well or have a big enough werf for chickens to roam. And then, out of the blue, an opportunity came Corlandi’s way to run with her dream from a little nook in Stellenbosch. That ‘little nook’ evolved, and evolved over the past 6 years, and today is yet another big milestone in her story and journey and I am so proud to be here today as a witness to her courage, insane perseverance and passion for this industry. There is so much more detail to this story, which will be shared on their site and platforms soon. but this isn’t just a story of a girl with dreams, it is a story of a girl that make her dreams happen.”
In that tiny space, which was open just five days a week, we began to shape those dreams into a vision that was inspired by a heart for serving and a love for design and food.
I knew that I needed to create my own identity for this calm, quaint space and at first I was determined to choose an Afrikaans name, but nothing felt right. Until, late one night, I stumbled across one particular Greek word...
MERAKI | adj. origins greek
to do something with love, creativity, passion and soul. it's when you love doing something so much, that you put a part of yourself into whatever you find yourself doing - it's the essence of your being; your soul will forever be connected (to it).
It so perfectly summed up what we were doing - serving good coffee and unusual pastries, with the occasional burger night too, on ever-so-slightly-wobbly tables that I’d built out of curtain rods and round tops. Those tables couldn’t seat more than 25 people, but already we witnessed the beginning of what would become this beautiful family of Meraki regulars.
Right from the start I was adamant about supporting our community and over the next two years we built relationships with local suppliers, from many of whom we still buy authentic, handmade produce today. From coffee beans and ice cream to the eggs we use to create our breakfasts, we love how working hand in hand with some of the best producers allows us to live up to our promise of serving all things delicious.
In June 2014…
…our feet took us down an unexpected but exciting path, when the Café Crème space to the right of Meraki became available. We closed the doors of our little Meraki so that we could bring the wall down and let the light flood in, creating the blank canvas for our new home.
After many late nights, we reopened our beautiful space in September 2014. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing and the months that followed were filled with a lot of hard work, many setbacks and a fair share of heartache.
I was the baker, maker and manager, opening and closing the shop every day. With aching feet I’d walk back to my apartment in the evenings, carrying just enough milk home for two cups of tea, because all I owned at that stage was a desk lamp, a hairdryer and a kettle. There wasn’t even a fridge, hence the milk jug that accompanied me on my walks...
But tough as these times were, by far the hardest and most heartbreaking moment came when I lost almost all my staff because of a large scale theft operation amongst staff. (At the same time, my engagement was broken off.) This vast loss was enough to make the idea of giving up seem very tempting, but with the unwavering support of the people around me and the Meraki community, I kept pushing forward and, slowly, the light began inching back in.
During this time, a man walked into Meraki who, unbeknownst to me, was going to change the course of my future.
His daughter had brought him for breakfast on a bustling Saturday morning and he complained about having to wait for his food. We struck up a conversation and I walked away from the exchange with an inkling that I might have found an investor for a dream that had been growing - Meraki Downtown.
A week later I set out to meet him properly, wearing my best formal business attire. Mentally I’d set aside 45 minutes for the meeting, before I would head home for my routine cup of tea. I had no idea that five hours and a bottle of wine later, we’d be dancing in the street by the Botanical Garden to the sound of Bruce Springsteen’s Tougher Than The Rest. (It was a song that had seen me through hard times and it turned out to be one of André’s favourites.)
Six months later, to the day, we were engaged.
Another big part of bringing the light back was my new team. Together we rebuilt Meraki (even when it flooded completely less than two weeks before our wedding) My team are my foundation and a rock for me to build on. Their commitment and unwavering support has seen me through the most challenging of times… their love for my business and their support of my vision serves as daily inspiration. It’s thanks to them that we were ready for the next step, when it came…
In June 2018…
...we were brand new parents to little Marnella, juggling everyday life and business ventures. It had also just become official that Melissa’s The Food Shop would be liquidating. This was heartbreaking news. Two decades earlier, Melissa had pioneered café culture in South Africa with real, honest food, and she was a constant inspiration on my own journey, not least because I’d worked for her in my early twenties.
In that very first meeting with André about the possibility of Meraki Downtown, he’d asked what my dream spot would look like and my answer had been, “Ideally it would be the Melissa’s premises in Dorp Street… but that’s just dreaming.” I had no idea that a few years later, that space would become available and now serve as the home to a dream come true; Meraki Downtown.
The circumstances are obviously hard and heartbreaking for many, but I consider it an honour to be able to continue with the hospitality and passion that were so central to Melissa’s The Food Shop, not least because it’s an opportunity for the staff in Dorp Street to continue working in the same space. It may look a little different, going forward, but her legacy will always shine through.
And so we welcome our new sister café, Meraki Downtown at 86 Dorp Street!
As we begin this new chapter of serving our community, I want to thank each and every one of you.
To my husband, André, I will forever be thankful for your wisdom and support, for believing in me and allowing me to spread my wings as I pursue my dreams.
To my family, for putting up with my craziness since that very first day, for encouraging me through every setback and victory.
To my incredible team, without whom Meraki wouldn’t be what it is. You are the life and soul of my businesses and I’m so grateful for the care and passion you put into every plate of food and cup of coffee we serve.
And to every single one of our customers, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I look forward to taking this next step on the journey with you all!
With love and passion,
From myself, my husband and our little girl, and our Meraki team
See you Downtown!