Café Culture wants to wish Coffee Parts a happy 21st birthday, by taking you on a journey from their humble beginnings in 1999, which also takes us on a journey through Australia’s voyage from a modest café nation, to a global coffee powerhouse.
Words by Rob Marlowe – Mr Versatility, Café Culture International
In the days when companies like Allpress, Campos, Toby’s and Café Culture were simple start-up businesses and names like Paul Basset were still yet to arrive on the scene, in order to rebuild his beloved 1961 Faema e61, Domingos Laranjinha was searching high and low for parts.
In the late 1990’s buying parts in Australia was nearly impossible without begging or being in the inner circle of the coffee machine companies. Prices were determined on face value or friendships and all Dom wanted was a few spare parts to keep his baby going.
So, he contacted family in Italy and got some seals sent over for his Faema e61, and for some machines which his friends owned. Soon he was getting more parts sent over for friends of friends, and that’s where it all started.
Dom was to become an industry legend and go-to for spare coffee machine parts.
Coffee Parts was created and moved from their home to a small shop in Dulwich Hill, Inner West of Sydney.
As any man will tell you, ‘behind every great man is an even greater woman’!
And true to life, Dom’s wife Cilinia who had an e-commerce company named CG Web Designers, allowed Coffee Parts to be ahead of the game right from the get-go, as an organically grown online store.
Timing? Luck? Genius? As the story unfolds, I think we can safely say all three!
Between Dom’s vision and Cilina’s tech brains, the shape of what was to come was formed. However, although systems were automated, compared to today it was a very clunky world and like any good migrant family business, son Pedro was brought in to help out after school.
Little was he aware then that he was setting up his successful future and as time went by became more and more influential in the business.
Eventually becoming the handsome face and well-known name of Coffee Parts.
Pedro tells me about those early days, specifically joining us at our own trade show ‘Café Biz’.
A far cry from today’s custom-built designer stands and cutthroat culture! Pedro explains, “back then it was all fold up plastic tables and chairs and a great deal of fun and passion”.
Pedro was fresh faced; out of school attending UNSW and helping Dom and Cilinia run the family business.
In those early days, coffee wasn’t the cool space it is today, but authentic to the core, a melting pot of heritage from coffee drinking societies, with an infectious energy, which flames still burn strongly today!
In 2004, Dom’s ambitions had outgrown Dulwich Hill, which was fortunate as they had just been given notice of demolition of their row of shops.
It was time to build and create a space with love that the Coffee Parts family could grow into, along with the industry.
Dom arrived in Australia from Portugal in 1987.
He was not only a passionate dreamer of coffee and art; his aspirations went beyond storage and distribution for the Coffee Parts business.
He wanted a place where the coffee industry could collaborate on neutral ground.
He was adamant that with teamwork and love, innovation occurred, proving he was not only superbly technically minded but intuitively way ahead of his time.
In 2005 with the building complete, the legend and mantra of Coffee Parts was cemented for time to come.
In this fantastic new warehouse space (the house that Dom built), the Australian industry grew.
Dom would spend much of his time around the centrally located plastic table talking, dreaming and being present, often with like-minded industry innovators (the story goes that Cafetto was the brainchild between Dom and Chris Short around that very same table).
Dom & friends would spend hours playing with different machine setups in the workshop, working out the best extraction methods for coffee and it was here that the bottomless portafilter first entered the Australian market.
In 2005, terrible tragedy struck the Laranjinha family.
Dom had a heart attack and was lost to the coffee industry at an important time, when he had only just launched his vision.
There is a saying in Tibetan culture, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ Suddenly, Cilinia and Pedro (aged 19) entered the world of ‘Coffee Parts’ full time.
By 2007, Pedro completed his UNSW co-op academic scholarship and like many high achievers was immediately offered an attractive corporate job with all the bells and whistles that came with such a package, at low personal risk.
This coincided with outgrowing the warehouse Dom had built and was a defining crossroads moment in life.
Pedro had to decide between holding onto the vision for Coffee Parts created by Dom, or following in the paths of his then peers, out of university.
“There is nothing that moves a loving father’s soul quite like his child’s cry.” And Dom must have heard the call, as it didn’t take Pedro long to decide his heart and soul was with Coffee Parts.
Virtually overnight Pedro decided to build a bigger warehouse. An expansion plan, to supply not just the coffee machine parts, but the accessories and the home espresso machines.
In 2008 amidst the global financial crisis (GFC), a mix of excessive risk taking by banks and the crash of the US housing market bubble, would have had Pedro questioning the expansion. However, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The dream and ambition were in place and nothing was going to stop Pedro!
Having not experienced a recession, Pedro admits he might have been slightly blind-sided by his first true love for a curvaceous, sexy Kees coffee machine, Pedro tells us Coffee Parts had recently begun distributing, but for the readers information, he still owns that first Kees coffee machine he purchased and loves it as much now as when he made his first espresso on it!
Against the strong advice of the financial planners and accountants, inspired by Rick Damelian’s car showroom where you got to see all the best sports cars in one place, Pedro built a one of a kind, home espresso showroom.
The coffee community has always been well connected and soon learned of the showroom, which was a hit.
Imagine a time when eBay Australia was just coming online, Facebook was a desktop platform used innocently to connect with friends, not to overturn governments or corrupt states.
Before Amazon and Instagram, Pedro would spend most of his time at expo’s educating folk on how to order online from the Coffee Parts website.
The knowledge, experience, blatant bullish ambition, enterprise and great online point of difference led Pedro to his next warehouse fit out, as once again his premises ran out of space.
This time Pedro decides to build another warehouse, with a purpose-built showroom and online dispatch, turning the previous warehouse into a stock only space.
Pedro described this build as fun, as he wanted it to represent who he had become. It was his fathers’ vision, now morphed together with his own. Coffee Parts warehouse had become a coffee playground!
Throughout the building of Coffee Parts, Pedro hasn’t forgotten his friends on his journey, some of whom have worked with and left their mark on the business, such as Marcello, who worked there for 7 years and was always passionate about coffee.
Pedro inherited Dom’s love for art and nearly every wall has a piece of art airbrushed or installed in his showroom from his favourite street artists.
Machines have been hung on walls, rare light boxes fitted, custom built scooters with portafilter handles hang from the roof, and water filters turned into features.
Pedro has succeeded in making Coffee Parts a real-life art gallery, filled with beautiful products and a ‘home away from home’ for all coffee lovers.
In 2012, Pedro, while out with friends, had a massive accident which left him unable to function as required.
Damion, who in a full circle evolution of life, was on his way to having coffee with Dom in 2005, when he passed away, had just sold his business and so for the next two years was able to help Coffee Parts complete the building and running of the business, while Pedro fully recovered.
He then went on to open his own roastery and is the roaster behind the Lara’s Touch blend they use today.
In 2017, no-one would have faulted Pedro for sitting on his laurels, being well known, respected and a successful businessperson in his own right. However, Pedro had a sense something was missing.
When Dom created the first warehouse, with workshops for both himself and Pedro, Dom would build coffee machines and bikes, while Pedro liked to concentrate on innovating and later testing his passion for billie carts.
The workshops and tools fell by the wayside for other priorities as the business grew.
In a tribute to Dom, a third warehouse was built where all the original tools and benches were removed from storage and installed, along with some new advanced tools.
This is now Pedro’s favourite place to be, connected with his roots, to test and experiment with ideas and play with his new creations.
Pedro works hard, has fun and makes a difference!
He spends his spare time supporting Soul Origin in building a coffee empire, and clowning around, volunteering at a Children’s Hospital to make kids smile.
I can’t think of any person in the coffee industry, successful or otherwise, to be such a genuine, modest, generous soul, and protective of his beloved coffee industry.
It’s testimony to Dom and Cilinia’s upbringing of an inspiring person.
Pedro has clearly built on his father’s vision of supplying products they love to the industry they adore.
They now stock over 150 of the top brands in the world of coffee and over 12,000 SKU’s from all over the world, most of which can be dispatched the same day from one of three warehouses.
Pedro says, “Combining my love for hospitality with tech has been a dream and seeing the Australian coffee scene evolve over the years has been a magical mystery tour. I’m hugely excited about the future world of tech and coffee”.
A note from Sean Edwards, Managing Director Café Culture International.
I was one of the lucky ones who was a close friend of Dom Lara who introduced me to everything Portuguese – hot chicken, good fortified wines and beautiful girls. I first met Dom in his little secret space in Dulwich Hill.
It was a man cave full of lots of shelves of stuff which was hidden in a cloud of cigarette smoke from the chain-smoking Dom.
I loved visiting Dom and his family when I was in Sydney and I returned the friendship, hosting the Lara’s at our home in Comboyne.
I was on the phone with Dom the day he died, he rang to tell me he was not feeling well and out of breath. I told him to give up the smokes and go to the doctors. It was a horrible week for all, losing such a loveable friend.
Cilinia gave me the honour of farewelling him at his funeral, for all his mates in the coffee industry (his second family).
Pedro and Cilinia did an amazing job building up the Coffee Parts empire and I know Dom would be so proud of his family continuing to keep his dream alive. I still try and catch up with the Lara’s when I am in Sydney, grabbing a meal occasionally.
Pedro and I will often randomly chat about all things new and possible new opportunities.
I am proud and honoured to be able to be a witness of the great outcome for this unique iconic business and the amazing team behind it.
“Saude” Coffee Parts on your 21st birthday.