Aussie Businesses in NYC – and where to find them: Merriweather Coffee + Kitchen

There are dozens of Australian businesses who have opened shop in New York.  Some we know well, and others not so well.

We want our readers to learn about these businesses, where they are located, as well as share the personal stories of their owners.

We spoke with Peter Godhard, the Founder of Merriweather Coffee + Kitchen – an Aussie café located at 428 Hudson Street in New York City.

Peter, where were you born and educated in Australia?

I was born and raised in Merewether, a beach suburb of Newcastle – hence the name Merriweather, which is easier for Americans to pronounce. I completed my Commerce and Law degrees at UNSW.

What did you do in Australia before arriving in the US?

I was a corporate securities lawyer in Sydney for two and a half years at Allens before making the move to New York in 2007, just before the financial crisis hit.

What brought you to the US?

My wife, who is also my behind-the-scenes partner in Merriweather, is a New Yorker. Moving back to New York from Sydney was something we wanted to do and it coincided with the crazy private equity boom in New York during 2005-2006. I was able to get hired pretty easily on the E-3 visa – which was just coming to people’s attention around then.

What inspired you to start Merriweather?

I suffered my way through nine years of practicing as a Wall Street lawyer, and I knew it was time for me to finally take a real risk in my life and pursue a job revolving around my passion. The idea I kept coming back to was opening a café, as coffee has been my true passion in life for the last 20 years.

I am obsessed with the spaces people create with cafés and the community and happiness that they foster. So I left practicing law and took a job as a barista to learn the business and start working on setting up my own store. It took a lot longer to accomplish than I had initially hoped (over 2 years), but it was worth the wait!

What is unique about Merriweather?

The people! The counter was designed to bring our baristas and the hundreds of regulars we serve each day closer together. This creates a special chemistry and positivity with our guests and makes it exciting to be in the space. We are a high volume café, so there is a real energy and buzz in the store seven days a week.

I believe the reason why Merriweather is so popular is because we get the basics right; coffee and specialty drinks, food, interior design, location and customer service. On top of that our staff are giving our guests a great fun experience. Oh, and I think we have the highest quality coffee program in the City, so that helps too!

What advice do you have for any Australians thinking of starting a business in the US?

New York is a great place to start a new business, there are so many opportunities here and a general openness for new things! I believe the secret to a lot of Australian’s success in New York is staying true to their authentic Aussie attitude and experience, not conforming to an American idea of what a café or any business should be.

I believe a truly successful business requires an owner who is passionate and sweats the details. Do your homework. Speak to as many people with experience as you can. Trust your own judgment and try and learn from other people’s mistakes!

You really have to be assertive to get anyone’s attention in this town, people will go days without responding to you because everyone has a lot going on, so keep following up with contractors, architects, landlords, vendors so you can move your project forward!

What unique quality does being an Australian bring to your business?

It’s a cliché at this point, but I really believe Australians have a unique sense of style, freshness and quality when it comes to cafés. Especially in Sydney and where I grew up in Newcastle, your sense of community is often focused around the beaches, parks and cafés where you live – so cafés take on this heightened role in life, and Australians are particularly passionate about café spaces and coffee quality to an extent that just doesn’t exist anywhere in America.

You can visit Merriweather on the web or stop by the location at 428 Hudson Street in New York City – just north of Houston Street.