In just three years, The Kookaburra has grown from a downtown novelty into a community cornerstone.
Three years ago, Spencer Hooker and Megan Vidal found themselves tired of their long Atlanta commutes and the corporate lifestyle. They wanted to live somewhere they could ride their bikes to work. They longed for a true sense of community. While visiting family, the two saw a prime opportunity to bring their independent business idea to life in St. Augustine and they jumped on it.
They traded the hustle and bustle for small town living and opened up The Kookaburra, Aussie-American espresso bar and pie shop, right in the heart of downtown St. Augustine, on Cathedral. “We saw our concept working in that spot and seized the opportunity,” said Spencer.
For the entire two months leading up to opening, every single weekend was spent driving down to St. Augustine to do as much of the build-out as they could, before heading back to Atlanta for full weeks of work. “We tried to do as much as we could while we still had our jobs,” said Spencer. “We knew once we quit and moved, it would be go time.” On July 1, 2012, they displayed the name “Kookaburra” on a piece of painted wood, hung it in place, and opened their doors. It was officially go time.
For the first eight months, it was just the two of them, crafting the menu as they went along. “You have to work in your business to really figure it out,” said Megan. Building from the ground up has allowed the two to really streamline their operations, and be community-focused in everything they do.
Naturally, when it came to bean selection, in keeping with their community-oriented approach, they wanted to secure a roaster as close to home as possible. A single sip, and the two fell in love with Jacksonville’s Bold Bean Coffee Roasters. “The genesis of good coffee is good beans,” said Spencer. Bold Bean is not just a good roaster, they’re phenomenal.” The Kookaburra has proudly and exclusively been brewing Bold Bean since day one.
In addition to brewing top-notch coffee, at the heart of The Kookaburra’s essence, and menu, is an Australian influence. Along with more familiar coffee offerings, The Kookaburra is known for its Aussie features, such as their own spin on an Aussie Iced Coffee, including homemade vanilla syrup and cream. Since the iced version quickly became The Kookaburra’s most popular drink, it is now offered in a hot variety. And then there are the signature savory pies. Megan has become an Aussie pie master and bakes up fresh pies daily, following family recipes provided by Spencer’s Australian mother. Selections include traditional meat pies, and nostalgic flavors from Spencer’s childhood, making the pies as authentically Aussie as they could possibly get.
A NEW CHAPTER
It was the community atmosphere that brought Spencer and Megan to St. Augustine, and now it’s the community support that propels them forward. Although the downtown Kookaburra spot is sure to remain a prized destination for locals and tourists alike, thanks to the recent addition of a new, spacious, second location in the Seabridge Square Plaza, near Nettles Fine Jewelry and Marshall’s, The Kookaburra is able to further extend its reach into the community. “In a small community, when you’re a popular hub and social outlet, you make so many different connections,” said Spencer. “Now we have even more of a connection with the community. We feel like we’re an integral part of it.”
Having this second location outside of downtown means The Kookaburra can truly offer the best of both worlds. That is, they are able to serve up what they have become best known for, in two entirely distinct, yet complementary environments.
When you go… try The Honeybadger Latte with honey, cinnamon, vanilla and espresso. Pick me up perfection!
The Kookaburra 312 is located at Seabridge Square Plaza: U.S. 1 and 312. Read more about Kookaburra’s new location, here.
This article originally appeared in the April/May issue of St. Augustine Social. Photos by Rob Futrell, exclusively for St. Augustine Social.