Work Inc.

Through the eyes of a local: How the new kid on the block, Bay Ten Espresso, came to transform North Sydney

Work inc’s brand manager, Brittany Davidson, sat down with beloved café regular, Patrick Lindsay, for a chat about how a little shipping container has made waves in the local community rippling through North Sydney. 

Conversations with Regulars – Patrick Lindsay

Discovering the roller door open on Bay Ten Espresso’s first week of trade, Patrick Lindsay and his artistically talented wife, Lisa Cotton, have been committed since that first visit back in 2014. Venturing down from their North Sydney apartment, these two can be found in Bay Ten every other day soaking up the rays and meeting with friends who have come to adopt the shipping container café just like them.

A bit about Patrick’s professional life

Patrick began working full-time as an author in 2001, after a long career as a journalist and television presenter.  He has established himself as one of Australia’s leading non-fiction authors, broadcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers. But to us he’s a friendly local.

I served him Piccolos while he told me about the world

I have become acquainted with Pat after serving him years’ worth of Piccolos way back when I was a teen working at the café saving for my solo trips abroad. Pat would become my favourite regular to chat with drawing on him for the local gossip and together discussing worldly affairs.

But this morning Pat has thrown me a curve ball changing up his order with a ¾ almond latte, and it seems some things do change. We’ve settled at a small table with the windowed light on our faces, Pat has the rough heritage wall as a backdrop and sheltering below is Norman Lindsay, his dog, warming my feet.

Having grown up in the area since the age of eight, Patrick knows this wondrous wedge of Sydney better than anyone so, I’ve met up with him to gauge just how much Lavender Bay has changed over the years. 

Image: Rachel Kara

(top left and bottom) Candid snap from 2014 upon one of Patrick’s first visits to Bay Ten with his previous dog, Rosie. She was a much beloved Bay Ten dog giving us joy for many years before she sadly passed away. (top right) ‘RADAR’ sign left over from days when the Highway Patrol made headquarters out of Bay 10 in the 60s.

Did you know North Sydney had a tram??

Yes, a tram. Patrick tells me that his first year attending school in Kirribilli also happened to be the last year of the tram before it was torn down in 1958. Where the Cahill Expressway is now, the northern side of the tramway would converge from the eastern tracks passing over the roadway to connect with the railway and lead up to North Sydney.

I look up to the ceiling high above. Bay Ten is where the overpass would meet the railway.

Lavender Bay home to the working class

Five of the top 10 most liveable Sydney suburbs make up the area around the laneway however, Patrick remembers their previous status as working-class kind of suburbia on the banks of the harbour.

Patrick recounts an older friend’s story of his childhood growing up in McMahon’s Point when it was a very different place, and people would forlornly look at the little boy.

“They’d say ‘you poor bugger… well one day you’ll get a nice house with a backyard.’ It was not the sort of place you’d aspire to live in.”

And in a shadowed laneway amongst the roughness sat the forgotten warehouses of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which later became home to mechanics, car dealers, North Sydney Highway Patrol, and the SES. Then Work inc! 

“It was all grease monkey territory… And you could always see the origins of the whole place.”

We’re seated next to a hand painted sign on the wall saying ‘RADAR’, leftover from the days of the Highway Patrol making use of the warehouses as their HQ. 

Patrick draws connections between artsy Paris and the Work inc warehouses

Some ten to 15 years ago Patrick and Lisa had come back from their Paris trip with a fresh perspective on their neighbourhood. While out on a ritualistic morning walk, Patrick pointed out the industrial strip of oversized garages on Middlemiss Street, noting their potential to be reinvented into something imaginative like the Parisians had done with their Viaduc des Arts in the 12th arrondissement.

“We knew from the outside that it was going to be cool but inside there was the little shipping container and immediately when we saw it, we thought – perfect! It was the first time someone’s had any real imagination about repurposing the spaces.”

Images: Nicolas Scordia (left), Jeffery T Iverson (right).

Red-brick vaulted archways underneath an abandoned railway have been reclaimed through renovations into boutique shops, cafes, artist studios and galleries making up the Viaduc des Arts, with a relaxing greenspace above aptly named -Promenade Plantée – ‘planted promenade’. It’s the 1993 original to New York’s, The High Line.

“The great cities have always managed to interweave the new with the old and that’s what’s been done here.” 

Bay Ten Espresso stands out against 150 identical cafes

As a commercial hub, North Sydney has been left behind in the hospitality game and while in every pocket there’s an adequate café serving the business folk, there seems to be nothing of substance for the people that actually live here.

Patrick doesn’t shy away from a good grumble over the 150 almost identical cafes he describes as having hardly any character, ambience, nor community.

“Bay Ten has provided a haven and a soul for this whole area and, it’s set a standard.”

What is Bay Ten Espresso to you?

Patrick’s statement about the heart of Lavender Bay emitting from our warehouses makes me smile. And he’s right, you can feel it when you walk around but you can also see it; everyone smiles at one another. Patrick nor Lisa are members of our coworking space but their presence in the café has become familiar to many of the coworkers as they greet each other upon visits.

For Patrick, Bay Ten Espresso is a place for work meetings, to write when he needs a break and, a reliable rendezvous for family and friends. And he tells me that he regards our team as family. Same, Pat, same. 

“The guys are all family now, they know us, and we know them and their stories. The whole point of a good café is that you know the back stories of the people that work there otherwise you’re just a passer-by. How many cafés do you go to that take the time to ask for your name and who you are?” 

Later in the day I catch a glimpse of Patrick hand in hand with his ginger-haired granddaughter. She’s wearing an assortment of blue patterned and frilled clothes with a pink donut pen in hand while they make their way to the café for an afternoon treat. 

Image: Brittany Davidson

An excerpt from Patrick Lindsay’s latest book, “Finding Beauty: 170 ways to look on the bright side”

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