Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.
Tegan on meeting Shannon and Mo...
It is a Friday afternoon in Melbourne. On a quiet Fitzroy street, small crowds of people emerge from a nondescript building to sit on the curb or lean against walls, their attention focused entirely on the treasures in their hands. Dogs look up longingly, waiting for a tasty morsel to fall from the black and white paper wrappings.
I step inside the building and take in my surroundings. The Smiths are playing through the speakers. The place is filled with people, and a U-shaped line has formed from the doorway to the counter, via shelves stocked with corn chips, hot sauce, marshmallows and an array of colourful sweets. Despite the queue, everyone seems to be in a great mood, chatting, laughing, and patting the dogs who are encouraged to join in on the fun. This is Smith & Deli, and it is the place to be.
I have been here more times than I can count. I’ve been here enough times for the staff to comment on my new hairstyle, and know which sandwich I like best. This time, however, the owner knows my name, and I am overcome with excitement. “Tegan! Hey!” The woman with peach-coloured hair and a wide, genuine smile is Mo Wyse, co-founder and hospitality mastermind.
She welcomes me into the kitchen for an tour. I see cheeses, deli meats, fresh loaves of sourdough, and tray upon tray of perfect croissants ready for the oven. The genius behind all of this food—Shannon Martinez—arrives as I am taking photos. She has been cooking all day, playing with a recipe for blood sausage.
Oh, and there’s one more thing you should know: everything they do is completely vegan, though they estimate that only 20 percent of their customers are. The rest just appreciate really good food and great service.
We walk over the road to Smith & Daughters—the restaurant that started it all in 2014—and chat for over an hour as the staff prepare for another busy night. With a second book in the works, collaborations all over the country, two booming businesses and Shannon’s “Three pots on the stove,” to look after, they might be frantic, but their love for what they do shines through in our conversation.