When I first met my husband George back in 2004, he was forever talking about these fabulous Crepes he used to make in Athens, Greece. He owned a Creperie there for 5 years, and described regular long queues outside his shop for his amazing hand-held Crepes. I was confused. The Crepe culture here in Australia is quite different. To us Aussies, a Crepe is basically a pancake, right? Served with Ice Cream, Jam or honey. I can remember my dad making them on a Sunday morning for the family, and although I have fond memories of them, I remember them to be soft, eggy and definitely requiring a knife and fork to eat. So what was this hand-held thing he was bragging about?
I had to see this for myself. In 2008, we took a trip back to Athens to visit the family, it was the first time for me meeting the family, and we were excited to show off our beautiful 18 month old daughter. But secretly, I just couldn’t wait to try the Crepes!
Although Crepes are served on a plate in some parts of Greece, the majority are served folded up in a paper and handed right to you.
I remember the moment approaching the Creperie and I saw the guys standing in the window of the shop front doing this magical thing with the Crepe batter. They were spreading the batter so fast it was as if it had a mind of its own. They were tossing bottles in the air and taking orders from customers ingredient by ingredient , and adding them to the Nutella ladened crepes. “But, they are still just pancakes, right? What makes these so special?” I was thinking to myself.
So when it comes time to take the crepe off the plate, rather than pick up a soft, eggy, crepe and lay it on a plate, they proceed to fold up a rather solid looking crepe, pop it into a paper support and place it directly into the hands of the hungry, excited customer. I watch them bite into the crispy, chocolatey crepe and immediately decide to order my own. Since there was no set menu, customers were simply naming toppings that were available and having them added to their crepe. We were up. What to choose? Obviously Nutella. There was no doubt about that. Banana? Biscuit? Irish Cream? Walnuts? Caprice? Yes, yes, yes! It was a triumphant moment. I had the first bite. I was sold. This was amazing. The whole experience, from watching them cook these beautiful crepes from scratch to the moment it hit my anticipating taste buds. I went back the next day, and the next. “That’s nothing.” Said my husband. “Wait until you try mine!”
The next day we visited an old employer of my husbands in a bakery he had worked in for many years. They were so happy to see him, and spoke again and again about his incredible crepes! I was so curious now!
Upon our return from Greece, there was a lot of talk about these fabulous Crepes, how different they were from what we knew about Crepes, and “Why was there nothing like this in Australia?” There were plenty of Creperies, that was for sure, but the crepes were certainly not like the ones I had experienced in Greece. It was time for my husband to put his money where his mouth was. “So show me these fabulous Crepes of yours!” I said. So we ordered our first double Krampouz Crepe plate direct from France. It was massive and it cost a motza, not to mention the time we waited for it to arrive. But finally it did. My husband fished out his secret Crepe recipe, 18 years in a bakery had taught him a thing or two – he had been working on this recipe, continually modifying and improving it for years.
He was right, his crepe batter was special. The end result was the crispiest, tastiest thing I had ever tasted! The Cheesy crust that had also set his crepes apart from the others was to die for!! We had to go public with these! The time was now!
So we found a little shop in the area where I grew up, it was quiet, but sat next to a station and opposite a Pub, so we were hoping people would like the idea and give us a try. We also had Georges amazing Pizza on the menu, and although customers were ordering our crepes, the majority of the business was for the Pizza. Hmmmm. What could we do to let people know how amazing our Crepes were?
We tried everything. We invested in a LED scrolling sign that continually flashed “OUR CREPES ARE HANDHELD!” I posted pictures constantly on facebook. I ran specials and even gave Crepes away just so customers could see how amazing they were. Don’t get me wrong, by 18 months, we were quite busy. We actually had customer travelling from other parts of Sydney because they had heard about this place that made Greek Style Crepes. But we had hit a wall. We were simply not in a busy enough place. We knew what we had to do. We started looking for a shop in a busier area. I was automatically drawn to Newtown. I had lived there in my single days and knew it was always buzzing. We found a shop on Enmore Rd just down the road from the Enmore Theatre, it was on the small side but the position seemed perfect. It was a huge emotional step for us – we closed our little Doughbox, and reopened in Enmore 1 month later.
It was daunting at first, a brand new area, a brand new clientele, we were so excited but so scared at the same time! We now had the chance for A LOT of exposure! On our opening day we had a family of customers from our previous location turn up to support us. It was heart warming and encouraging! They know who they are
Twelve months later, we were quite a busy little shop. But we had one problem. We had decorated the shop in such a way that it seemed we only made sweets. People were under the impression they could only have dessert with us. Our amazing Savoury Crepe were sadly going unnoticed. It was time for another change. We began thinking of new colour schemes and décor for Doughbox. A theme had definitely leeked in… we had started collecting pieces from the 1950’s to display in the shop. A vintage cash register, a vintage radio, photos of celebrites from the era were framed on the walls. Various vintage inspired tin signs were stuck up around the shop. We started playing music only from the fifties. Elvis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins would play every night. Customers were loving it. But where would we go from here? A 1950’s American themed diner, that where. I cant believe it took us that long to think of it! Doughbox became Doughbox Diner, step into the store and you step back into the 50’s!
So we painted over the chocolate brown paint with pastel blue, pink and green, added lots of chrome, a black and white checkered floor, and finally red and white booth sets direct from the states. Throw in a lot more memorabilia and a few reproduction pieces, and we had ourselves one very swanky lookin’ diner!
But the Crepes. They were still amazing, people were loving them. But there had to be a better way of marketing them. People were still expecting a French Crepe on a plate. What to do?? Then it hit us. Like a brick. By the time our Crepes were rolled up they were shaped like a cone. CREPE CONES. Boom. I can’t believe it took us that long to think of it!
The rest is history. Customers are coming from all over Sydney. Some are even coming from out of Sydney. A customer came down from Port Macquarie not long back. A lovely lady from Singapore even emailed me recently, she was visiting Australia and simply had to come to Doughbox Diner. Its not uncommon to see a line coming out of our little diner. Our customers are happy to wait for a table so they can eat our amazing Crepe Cones! This puts a smile on my face everytime. We did it. We showed Australia what amazing Crepes were, only this time they were Crepe Cones, and they were ours!
In 2013, increased interest in our little Doughbox Diner prompted us to look at expanding. With the help of our mentor, Robert, we began to develop a franchise development program that is now finally finished. We are proud to announce that we are now recruiting new franchisees. You have to love the era, love the product and be passionate about physically working in the diner yourself. This, we believe, is what makes us special.
What a journey! And its no where near over yet! 2014 will be a huge year for us, look out for a Doughbox Diner near you! And when you bite into that Crispy, mouthwatering Crepe Cone, let the magic take you away!
Diner Doll <3