At the Cork Street end of Francis St, a stones-throw from Fallon’s Pub, you’ll find a little coffee bar serving specialty beans surrounded by vintage clothes, with a few chairs and tables that catch the sun coming in through the shop’s windows. This is Two Pups Coffee, at the Francis Street Collective.
The Francis Street Collective was brought together by Deirdre Macken of sartorial stalwart Sé Sí, a 30-year-old alternative department store in Temple Bar that houses Lucy’s Lounge vintage in its basement. When Macken obtained the lease of 74 Francis Street, her plan was to fill its first floor with creative businesses she liked, while she worked from a workshop space upstairs. In December 2015, she approached Zoe Ewing and Kevin Douglas about setting up a coffee bar in the space, which was by that time home to three other businesses.
KiKi’s Booteeki (facebook.com/kikisbooteeki) vintage threads share the front of the space with Two Pups Coffee, while Vertigo Vintage (vertigogovintage.com) have filled the back of the space with limited edition frocks and blouses, and Jen Zen Hair Guru works from the space as Velvet Moon (velvetmoonhair.com). “It’s been a very supportive environment,” says Ewing. “We all get on very well with each other, and share the same interests.”
Ewing and Douglas had been making coffee at markets before Macken approached them last year. Douglas hand-built the coffee bar into the space, and Two Pups opened in February 2016.
“Our coffees change all the time,” explains Ewing. “We use single-origin coffee and pay attention to what’s in season. You could get a different coffee every day here, which we think is part of the playfulness of Two Pups.” Before Two Pups, which is a reference to the Dublin slang for cheeky upstarts, Ewing had been a stay-at-home mum. Douglas had worked as a plumber and nutritionist, but he caught the specialty coffee bean bug thanks to an illuminating tasting at Vice Coffee led by barista Brian Birdy, now the head roaster at Full Circle Roasters.
Two Pups stock beans from Dublin roasters 3FE and Cloud Picker Coffee, and also from The Barn in Berlin. “Once you get the taste for specialty coffee, it’s hard to go back,” says Ewing. Their black coffees are €2.50 and their white coffees are €3. It’s a hot day when I visit so I choose a plastic cup of coffee over ice, which Ewing sweetens to order. Generic iced coffee is tooth-achingly over-sweetened, to hide inferior coffee, but at Two Pups their iced coffee actually tastes like coffee. It’s very good, as is their regular flat white.
Also on offer are velvety brownies from The Cupcake Bloke, and cakes and pastries from Arun Bakery in Smithfield. For a more savoury lunch, they serve a daily soup supplied by Soup Dragon on Capel St. There is another downstairs room at the back of No 74, currently vacant, that the Francis Street Collective hope to expand into. Ewing and Douglas are hoping to use this extra space for seating, and to stretch their own offering to homemade sandwiches.
I come for a takeaway coffee but peruse the vintage while I wait, and the benefits of this type of set-up for small businesses is very easy to see. The businesses work together on events, such as vintage dress-up days, and they each bring in their own audiences. They have also hosted lunchtime gigs in the space in partnership with BIMM, the music college down the road. Throughout these events, Two Pups keep everyone caffeinated.