The bookshop-café combo is nothing new and a shrewd move in a world where a cappuccino and the new Deon Meyer (a top Capetonian crime novelist) make smart commercial bedfellows. Cape Town, however, has taken the concept of such hybrid businesses to new levels with laundries in which you can buy art and sip wine, cafés that double as boutiques and galleries, and cocktail bars that also serve up customize motorbikes.
Wash, wine and dumplings
Among the pioneers of this hybrid-business trend in the Mother City is I Love My Laundry, which opened its first laundry-café-wine shop-art and gift gallery at 59 Buitengracht St in 2013 with the aim of making a mundane weekly chore more fun. It has since been joined by branches at 14 Bree St and 50 Buitenkant, each stocking a slightly different range of products – a mixture of original art pieces, interior design goods, kitschy gifts, Western Cape wines and foods – as well as a full range of laundry services, including dry cleaning, ironing and alternations.
Whether you’ve got washing to do or not, I Love My Laundry functions pretty well as a place for a coffee or a light meal. The menu includes handmade, steamed Korean-style dumplings (no fish oil and no wheat is used in these) with both meat and vegetarian options. On Wednesday evenings there are free wine tastings and, because the shops are open daily, they are among the few places in the city centre where you can buy a bottle of wine on Sunday when most other businesses are closed.
Bourbon cocktails and custom bikes
Also going strong since August 2013 has been House of Machines, combining a custom motorbike workshop with a café, cocktail bar, men’s fashion boutique and a live music/DJ space. The motorcycle enthusiast trio of owners have designed the place as a homage to cool Americana with tasty, inventive bourbon cocktails, US craft beers, Evil Twin brand coffee from New York City and an appealing range of clothes. Apparel includes top quality Japanese denim jeans and jackets and eye-catching T-shirts printed with their own logos or a photo of the 60’s movie star and style icon Steve McQueen.
In nearby Bo-Kaap, the colourfully painted district of the city that has been a centre for the Cape’s Muslim community for nearly 250 years, Los Muertos is a hipster neighbour for the southern hemisphere’s oldest mosque across the road. Not only does this operation combine a custom motorbike workshop with a café and biker wear boutique, but they also stock their own design of surf boards and run a film production company.
Breakfast, lunch and a new look
Fashion, food and drink is another combo that’s proving popular with Capetonians. In the trendy De Waterkant district, a stylish, gay-friendly crowd hangs out at the Loading Bay, which reopened at the end of 2014 after a slick and expensive upgrade of its interior design. Their spiffy café serves coffee with ‘microtextured milk’ (it’s heated to 70 degrees Celsius only) and dishes such as crispy bacon and avocado on toast. Thursday evening is their popular burger nights – book for one of the two time slots available to taste their top grade patties, both premium beef and vegetarian. Once you’re done eating, climb the stairs to browse the imported male fashion brands such as Our Legacy and Acne from Stockholm and Orslow from Japan, and climb again to find the only dedicated outlet in South Africa for the premium Australian skincare brand Aesop.
Australia is also the source of the beach-friendly fashions, both male and female, stocked at Latitude 33, an appealingly designed and friendly café-boutique-gallery named after Cape Town's geographical location. The surfer-chic café serves a good range of drinks, French toast made with farmer's white bread or panettone, crispy chicken schnitzel sandwiches and burgers. As well as the clothes there’s a gallery displaying the detailed portrait art of one of the owners.
Collectables, art and coffee
Art is also the foundation of the hybrid business Luvey ‘n Rose, a gem of a gallery at 66 Loop St that mashes up collectable antiques and works by key South African and African artists such as Walter Battiss, with more contemporary stuff from emerging talents. It doubles as a café and cigar lounge, a smart move to encourage visitors to linger and browse the eclectic art and design.
After years of collecting comics, records, cameras, graphic prints and other pop cultural and retro collectables, the duo behind the quirky and eye-catching gallery-shop-café The Eye (44a Bloem St) have turned sellers. They also stock vinyl platters and CDs by local artists such as the Kalahari Surfers, who feature on the owners’ record labels Roastin’ Records and Angry Africa Records.
All kinds of adventurous retail start ups are clustered in the old warehouses and factories of Woodstock. The Old Biscuit Mill leads the way with it’s mix of established retail shops and the phenomenally successful Neighbourgoods Market on Saturdays. The Woodstock Exchange is another mixed-use complex where you can cruise between hipster cafés and bars and the ateliers of fashion designers and artists, such as Grandt Mason Originals who makes bespoke footwear from high end fabrics.
And do swing by Woodstock Cycleworks even if you're not in the market for a custom-built bike. In a building graced with a bicycle-themed mural by Freddy Sam, they sell fashionable, locally-made biking tops, arty T-shirts and prints, and run Le Jeune café, which is named after a South African brand of bike. In the courtyard, vegetable tanned hides are used for the hand-crafted leather products made by Stockton Goods (stocktongoods.com). This is also the official after-event venue for Thursday Late (first-thursdays.co.za/thursday-late).