Making history in Ashfield

In a relatively quiet and established part of Ashfield in Sydney’s inner west, a café newcomer is making quite a splash. Excelsior Jones opened for business on 11 January, and has enjoyed a steady stream of customers ever since. 

The café makes more than a passing nod to history in its name, fitout and menu. “While we’re located on what’s now called Queen Street, the street formerly went by the name of Jones Street, and before that Excelsior Street,” said James Naylor, who co-owns the café with Anthony Svilicich. 

Some old maps of the area are incorporated in the design of the menu, one of which features the tram line that once upon a time, ran adjacent to the site of the café. 

Excelsior Jones’ menu includes some old school favourites – but with a modern twist – including a cheeseburger with grass fed Angus beef, gruyere cheese, tomato relish, aioli and fried spuds. They also offer old-fashioned milkshakes and spiders using syrups hand-made by a supplier from Broken Hill. 

James and Anthony had been looking for a location for some time before finding the wedge shaped corner shop that was built around 1927. 

“The shop had been empty for about five years, and before that it had been a grocery store,” said James. “It needed a lot of fixing up when we took over. We replaced the previous tiled, split-level floor with a level, tallowwood timber floor. We also replaced aluminium sliding doors with solid timber doors complete with original brass fittings, salvaged from restoration works done at the Queen Victoria Building.” 

The result is a warm and bright space, courtesy of the large windows and its corner position overlooking a pretty streetscape. 

James said he and Anthony first found Caféideas through an internet search. 

“Some suppliers have quite a limited range,” said James. “The fact that Caféideas has such a broad range to choose from made it much easier for us. This was particularly helpful when it came to workflow planning in our kitchen area. We spent a lot of time figuring out the best combination and position of different pieces of equipment to make it easier for people to move around. Because of Caféideas’ large range, it was simpler for us to pick and choose different models and come up with an ideal arrangement.” 

James said he and Anthony were very pleased with Caféideas’ pricing. “We put our list together and Caroline from Caféideas was able to reduce the prices significantly from the original because of the quantity we bought,” said James. “We also found the leasing option through Silver Chef helped tremendously with cashflow, particularly as we are a new business.” 

Anthony added how impressed he was with the service they received from Caféideas. “Caroline was amazing,” he said. “In the hospitality industry, I haven’t come across better customer service than the effort Caroline went to.” 

Renovations at the café were only completed a few days before opening. Without somewhere to store their new equipment while the renovations were taking place, there was some pressure to have everything onsite in the slim timeframe in which James and Anthony could take delivery. “Caféideas were great,” said James. “Even though it was early January, a time when many suppliers have shut down, everything arrived at the right time.” 

For Excelsior Jones, James and Anthony purchased a microwave oven, table bases, gas oven burner, gas griddle, counter top fryer, under counter dishwasher, chest freezer, ice machine, grill stations, under bar chillers, milkshake mixer and a juicer. 

“Anthony and I have extensive backgrounds in hospitality and we’re enjoying the chance to get to know our regulars here,” said James. “What we’ve tried to create is a local hub for the community in a part of Ashfield that’s some distance from existing cafés. It’s great to see so many people enjoying what we’re offering here.” 

Excelsior Jones is located at 139A Queen Street, Ashfield. It is open for breakfast, lunch, snacks and refreshments 7 days (7.30am to 4pm on weekdays, and 8am to 4pm on weekends). 

Excelsior Jones