You never know where your tea stop-shop can take you. In nutritionist and author Lola Berry’s case, grabbing a tea at her local café turned out to be the key to the business she’s now built with Melbourne entrepreneur Salvatore Malatesta. The result is her new juice bar and café, Happy Place.
“I used to do yoga around the corner from [one of Sal’s cafés] Saint Ali so I’d go in and have a tea with him,” Lola tells Collective Hub of her early relationship with her now-business partner. “Then he started putting my recipes on his menu in Saint Ali, so that would have happened around eight years ago now, and to this day there’s still Lola Berry smoothie on his menu.”
Finally, after several years of trying, Sal managed to convince Lola it was the right time to work together.
“He’s actually been hassling me to do this for the past ten years. And I was like ‘no, no, no, I don’t understand it’,” she laughs. “I just didn’t think I understood it well enough, and he goes, ‘trust me we can do this’. He just kept trying every time he saw me. He called it ‘giving birth to a baby elephant’ because it’s literally been 10 years in the making.”
Such different backgrounds would seem to make the undertaking tricky but, as Lola points out, a happy medium has been the secret to their thriving business relationship.
“I’m the hippie one and he’s the business one,” she laughs. “It’s a really good match, we balance each other out a bit.”
With Sal’s experience, Lola’s creative spirit and passion for food has been channelled into the ‘holistic health’ led space, which replaces coffee with turmeric and beetroot lattes, milk with a range of alternatives (including the vegan option, ‘mylk’) and continues to champion the ever-present cold-pressed juice and smoothie offerings – anyone interested in the ‘I Love Oprah’?
Moving into the hospitality space was, as Lola expected, a challenge of a whole new kind.
“[There’s the] side of business that I probably took for granted, I don’t do that anymore, there’s so much to it,” she says of stepping into a more in-depth business-running role. “I have so much respect for anybody that’s got a business or anybody that kind of goes out on a limb and does their own thing I really have heaps and heaps of respect for that.”
But Lola’s creative spirit has still been a driving force of the café, especially with the feel and customer experience.
“As far as the recipes and the actual customer experience and the like, we want biophilia, which is the healing power of Mother Nature, we want that there as well. [There’s] some awesome greenery and lots of beautiful whimsical blooms around the space as well. So the whole mission statement for this space is that you go in and you find your happy place in every way, that’s the whole aim of it.”
No stone (of crystal quartz) is left unturned in Lola’s vision.
“[There are] crystals in the ground, you can’t see [them], it will just look like a beautiful clear white stone, but that’s clear quartz,” she explains. “We’ve gone out and picked a piece that is the feature piece for the smoothie bar. And that is going to be a big really rustic piece of crystal that is mounted into the wall. And then in each smoothie you get a different flower essence and that works on emo-tional and spiritual health for example, there’s a flower we put in one that’s all about giving you more self-confidence, there’s another flower that goes into another one that’s all about giving you an open heart, that’s like the perfect smoothie to have before a date, you know?”
And in true Lola style, every smoothie comes with a crystal too.
“It’s quite whimsical and quite hippie and quite… some will probably say out there, but you know what – we said this has to reflect my heart and soul and it totally does.”
And anyone who thinks Lola’s role in the new venture is ‘hands off’, just has to pop down to the shop.
“[In the beginning] I’m in there, I’m part of the team, I’m getting in there early to train all the staff personally myself. My heart and soul is in this so I want to be part of the team,” she presses. “Obviously I live in Sydney and I do work, I’m going to America later to bring out the Happy Cook Book, but in between that I’ll be in Happy Place, that’s where you’ll be finding me. I believe in it and I’m really passionate about it, so I really want to be there.”
Stall 56 at South Melbourne Market
Corner of Cecil and Coventry Streets, South Melbourne