It was nearly two years ago that I decided it was time to leave my job at Target and try something new. I was really scared to leave that job because I had been there for six and a half years. My main friendship group was my work friends. We would all finish work on a Saturday, go home and meet up again so we could chat outside of work without being caught talking. St Rose is a much smaller place to work than Target. I thought that I wouldn’t fit in with the cute little family that worked there. Boy was I wrong about that.
The decision to move came at a time when I was really stressed. I was in my fourth year of study and the pressure was getting to me. The business was in trouble and I wasn’t getting many shifts. I contemplated finding another job in retail but decided I didn’t really want to work with clothes anymore. Instead, I wanted to work with food. It was about a day after I had this mini realisation that my favourite café advertised they were hiring. Without a second thought I applied. I had absolutely no hospitality experience, I was clumsy (still am); and I couldn’t distinguish between different types of coffee. What I did have was enthusiasm, a love of food and the fact that I knew the menu like the back of my hand. I got the job.
When starting at any new job I always get a bit nervous. Obviously there are going to be things I don’t know. I remember stressing out about memorising table numbers, remembering the names of any regular customers and the fact that I was struggling to carry one coffee cup without some spilling down the side.
I was naïve as to how much goes into running a café. I remember my first shift so clearly. Being a regular customer, I was eager to see what the back of the café looked like. I have so much respect for the people that work in the back of house. They are the people you never see when you are dining. They are the ones preparing your food, washing your dishes, staying back late to clean and making the café a hilarious place to work.
I will never forget my first weekend shift. It was a Sunday and I was nervous to the point that there were massive knots in my stomach. I could not believe how exhausted I was at the end of the shift. My ability to multitask needed to be taken to another level. Between the kitchen staff, the baristas, the other floor staff and the customers it is so hard to make everyone happy. Learning how to prioritise tasks to ensure that customers are satisfied is a valuable lesson I will always carry with me.
After that first weekend I started settling in. I felt secure with my role and knew that I could perform it to a good standard. However, all the knowledge and skills I have were really put to the test on a couple of occasions. One day I can so clearly recall is the day before the Melbourne Cup last year. It is actually funny looking back on it now but at the time I actually just wanted to crawl into the foetal position and cry. Myself and the other floor staff were actually running from one end of the café to the other. Any structure we had was out the door. Our boss literally just said “do your best.” My heart rate was up for a solid five and half hours. We could not catch a break. I won’t lie though, it was so satisfying at the end when we stopped and realised just how well we had worked as a team.
My favourite shift by far was on Good Friday this year. St Rose donated a dollar for every coffee that was made to the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. The vibes in the café that day were so positive. It was incredible to see the generosity of the Essendon community and the way that they all united for such a worthy cause.
Every shift was a unique experience for me. You never knew who was going to walk in the door. I have made so many beautiful friends in my time at St Rose. I love the group of regulars that have become like family to the café and its staff. I know that St Rose will always have a very special place in my heart. It was the place where I truly found my passion. It gave me a mini family I could always talk to and approach.
My last shift was definitely one I will never forget. We got absolutely smashed. Between the emotion of leaving and the stress of not knowing whether or not customers will even have cutlery when their food was ready I was actually a mess. It was so amazing at the end of the shift to stop and reflect on just how far I have come in the last two years. There is no way I would have been able to handle the stress when I first started working there.
St Rose has a special place in my heart because of the personal development that went on during that time. I went to St Rose at a point when I was still not quite taking care of myself. It taught me the importance of balance. It introduced me to people that have helped to develop my career and my writing. It has helped me to deal with difficult people. It placed me in uncomfortable situations. I know that the person I am today has so much to do with that little café on Rose Street.
I believe in life that you can learn something from every experience you are a part of. St Rose challenged me, empowered me and gave me tools in resilience and commitment that I will carry with me in all future employment. It was really hard taking off the apron for the last time. But I know for sure that it really isn’t goodbye for me. Let’s be honest, it is definitely still one of my favourite cafes and I can’t go too long without a good coffee.
Thank you to all the amazing staff and the lovely customers for being so friendly and letting me be part of your special community. This is definitely an experience I will never forget. Time to start the next chapter now…