Lifting the Suspension

GROWTH SPURT: Chris Johnston and Steph Whitehead, with daughter Margot, at their Islington cafe Suspension Espresso. Picture: Marina Neil. THE decision to do a reno on Spennoswas not one taken lightly.
Nanjing Night Net

Chris Johnston and Steph Whitehead, owners of Islington coffee institution Suspension Espresso, known affectionately as Spennos,were worried that updating their Beaumont Street cafe might take away some of its easy come, easy go essence.

“We didn’t want things all flash and shiny, it’s always been a soulful place,” says Johnston, a co-owner of The Edwards and, with partner Whitehead, owner of Good Brother in Newcastle.

“Before all our mini-renos were ad hoc, but it got to a point where we’dgrown so much, the place was looking tired.Our poor little darling had worked her heart out.”

After an around-the-clock,two-weekrenovation, during which time the cafe traded as a pop-up cafe in Johnston’ssecond shopfront next door, Suspension has reopened.

For the first time, the cafe has a designated kitchen and the work space has been upgraded but the use of natural materials and natty design features has been met with enthusiasm by customers.

“Someone said to me on the first morning‘it’s still Spennos’, and that was a relief,” says Johnston.

Heand Whitehead are now gearing up for the next project: they’veearmarked the space next door as a retail outletfor Suspension coffee beans.Set to open in about six weeks, the spacewill allowcustomers to buy a range of daily blends and even create their own: “We want people to try it all, be playful with it,” says Johnston.

Sourced globally from various coffee estates, Suspension’s beans areroasted in Sydney by Mishka Golski, who founded the cafe in 2004 with wife Rachel.

“Suspension has always been about coffee that’s strong, rich, and earthy,” says Whitehead, adding that the cafe changes brews daily and offers asingle origin and mixed blendmost days.

Johnston took over the cafe in 2007 before Whitehead threw in an environmental science degree to join him.

“It’s acommunity-focused cafe and an extension of our family,” he says.“The beautiful thing that happens here is that many people who are mates have come to know one another across a table.”