'Phantom' coffees to cafe collaborations: Community spirit lifts local businesses

Little m in Balmain is buoyed by community support.
Little m in Balmain is buoyed by community support. Photo: Supplied

Challenging times bring local communities together or tear them apart. In the neighbouring Sydney suburbs of Balmain and Rozelle, food businesses have become a symbol of the community coming together.

Ed Cutcliffe, the owner of Little m cafe on Darling Street, talks about the customer who orders and pays for "phantom" coffees from his office in Waterloo.

Coffee he doesn't intend to drink or want made, it's just one way to help the till of a local cafe keep ticking over.

Local business Victoire Boulangerie also made two free deliveries of baked goods last week to help Little m in challenging times.

Cutcliffe, who has his staff working in teams so if someone gets sick it doesn't affect everyone, is doing what he can to help and collaborate with other local businesses: even selling goods from a homewares store on his website.

Consultant chef Danny Russo, whose headquarters are in Rozelle, says "you can feel the community spirit in the air, look at what Bertoni is doing."

Bertoni, a long-time staple on Balmain's main drag, has for many years quietly fed many of the area's homeless. Talk in the area is they've been delivering meals to elderly residents in isolation.

"We are spotting those meals, there are people doing it tough," co-owner Anthony Iacono said.

When Danny Macri isn't selling herbs, the local fruit and veg man from Rozelle's Fruitologist is ladling out sage words.

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"Times like this show the truth about society. Those who everything is about 'me, me, me' and those who care for each other," he says.

It's an open secret he's been keeping pasta and canned goods aside for his elderly and disadvantaged customers.

"Interestingly, they might've been children during WWII, but they are the first to say I only need one of those."

If you have a story to tell about your local food community, let us know at bolles@tpg.com.au.