It’s telling that after spending an hour or so in Merimbula’s parent-and-child friendly cafe and activity space, The Daisy Lounge, I walk out without paying for my coffee and croissant.
Owners Deanna and Brendan Reynolds are so at ease in the space and its open, relaxed atmosphere that I feel I’m in a friend’s home. A mop and dustpan and broom stand ready in a corner, showing parents what they already know: mess is inevitable.
It being school holidays, today I’ve brought my seven-year-old son. Like most parents, I’ve spent time in cafes with my kids and had a variety of experiences, from getting an hour of peace out of a small, greatly appreciated box of toys to leaving in a hurry with a howling toddler under one arm.
Deanna and her husband Brendan, who teaches at Bombala as well as occasionally running the Daisy Lounge coffee machine, wanted to provide a cafe that welcomed the messy unpredictability of children and allowed parents time to drink a coffee uninterrupted.
It’s one of only a handful of cafes in Australia designed specifically for the needs of parents and kids.
“I fell pregnant when I was 19,” the now 24 year old says “I was a very young mum and I was not ready to give up my brunches and coffee dates. I also breastfed for 16 months so I knew what it was I wanted during that time and tried to create that here.”
With her own experience in mind, Deanna designed The Daisy Lounge with a large play area for kids, $5 art activities, private, comfortable spaces to breastfeed, as well as a wide range of workshops drawing on her background as a designer and photographer.
“One of our most popular workshops is the slime making but I also teach photography and digital art and design to older kids, as well as having regular art workshops like our upcoming Teens Winter Watercolour workshop.”
While drawing on her skills and experience, Deanna says that having a successful business in a small town is very much dependent on diversifying, collaborating with other local business’ and meeting the needs of the community.
“When we opened The Daisy Lounge, we knew that it had to be about the community, not about what we wanted to do,” she explains “when we moved to the new space last month, we adapted to what we had learnt during the first year of business. We shrank the studio, because there wasn’t the business to justify that use of space and we grew the play area because that was getting so much use.”
Marketing to a regular, local clientele was always the goal of The Daisy Lounge.
“I don’t really believe in seasonal business,” she says “we just had to diversify our services until there was no seasonal highs or lows. It’s the middle of winter now and we’re booked up with parties and events until October.”
As Brendan places a coffee in front of me, served on a cute little wooden tray so I can move around the room with it and sit on soft surfaces, my son joins four kids his age at the chalkboard.
Pearl Irwin-Rodd, of Millingandi, is the mother of a few of those kids and says she comes to The Daisy Lounge regularly because she feels that it’s good value for money.
“We’ve spent a few hours here this morning and for what I’ve spent and how happy the kids have been, I feel it’s affordable,” Pearl comments “and I love that Deanna and Brendan are happy to cut food in half and serve it on different plates.”
Making sure that parents leave happy and relaxed is part of the business model.
“We want to celebrate parenthood! So instead of trying to fit kids into adult spaces, we want to make something that keeps everyone happy,” Deanna says “the lounge is designed to encourage communication and reduce the isolation that often comes with parenting.”
As we are leaving, my son tugs on my hand.
“I want to come back here,” he says. Good thing too, because I have a coffee to pay for!