Founders: Alex Stone
TRADE shares our values for delivering great food and drink. They have developed a fantastic reputation not only for brewing delicious coffee, but also for their epic brunches and enormous TRADEMARK artisan sandwiches. After opening their second site a couple of years ago, they are now firmly established in London with people travelling for miles to sample the menu. We caught up with owner Alex a few weeks ago to talk all things Trade.
Hi Alex, for those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit more about Trade?
TRADE currently operates two locations on the Eastern Fringe of the City. We pride ourselves on offering our customers a great informal hospitality experience; combining friendly personable service and exceptional coffee with our 'TRADE-Made' food offering. We make 20 different types of cake, produce the best pastrami this side of Katz's deli, delicious smoked turkey, different and interesting salads, top quality Aussie style brunches and insanely delicious and enormous gourmet sandwiches.
You opened the doors to your first location on Commercial Street in 2014, how has the journey been so far?
It’s amazing that in January we will be turning 6! The time has gone so quickly. It has been fun and exciting and I have met a lot of amazing customers and worked alongside some great people. We have had lots of great moments along the way. The stand out highlight was receiving our first national award at the Sammies but we take just as much pleasure from getting great customer feedback. Of course it has not been plain sailing and like every new business starting up there have been plenty of challenges, bordering on existential crises. As we have grown and as a company gained more experience the challenges have remained but our ability to take them in our stride has increased and we feel incredibly fortunate to be in the position we are in at the moment with an incredible team of passionate chefs, baristas and managers and an incredibly loyal customer base and we have lots of very exciting plans for 2019 and beyond.
In May 2017 you opened your second location on Essex Road, how was the transition from running 1 shop to 2?
After the initial shock of opening a site and all of the hard work that goes into that, (and all at the same time trying to make sure the original site doesn't get neglected) the transition was fairly smooth. The Essex Road store has a big basement production kitchen where we make all the cakes/salads/smoked meats etc… for both stores. Before we had that space we were producing far too much from Commercial Street - much more than the small prep kitchen was designed to take we were bursting at the seams. So the bigger and better kitchen immediately made food / pastry production much easier. With both of our sites it took approximately 18 months for the café to find its rhythm. During that period of time it can be hard to predict busy and quiet times which can impact both profitability and stress levels massively. That said as the Essex Road site has established itself it is in many respects much easier to manage two stores than one.
Has your offering changed much over the last 5 years?
Parts of the offering have changed but we have tried to stay to our core values of great quality unpretentious informal food and drink. Exceptional coffee has always been the heart of the offering and we have always looked to pair that with great tasting popular food. The menu has changed a few times along the way as we look to respond to changes in customer preferences. When we opened in 2014 the big food trend was high end junk food and heavy smoked meats. In 2019 we have gone full circle and the trend is towards much less meat and a focus on healthier food. That said the bestsellers in 2014 are still the most popular food items today. We have a new menu we are launching later this year which has been a long time in development so we are excited to see how it is received by our customers.
Your TRADEMARK sandwiches are loved by many, what should we order next time we are in?
Not an easy question to answer! The Reuben is an exceptional sandwich. Our TRADE-Made pastrami with melted swiss cheese, TRADE-Secret Sauce & Sauerkraut. That said all of the sandwiches have their following and although the Reuben is probably my number one, I have been having a secret love affair with the Cuban club for some time now!
What interests you the most about coffee?
I am a huge coffee drinker and enjoy trying a variety of coffees from different origins and how the different processing and roasting methods effect flavour when cupping. It continues to astound me that even after all of that is considered a small tweak on the espresso recipe can totally transform the flavour in the cup. That said I am much more interested in the ritual of coffee, the people drinking it and the role a good local coffee shop plays in the community as a meeting place and home from home.
Any plans for the rest of 2019?
As touched on above we have some very exciting plans for 2019. Not only a new menu but some more exciting news to be announced soon – watch this space!
Visit Trade today.