4 March 2023

Darren takes his Good Grind inside to offer something different in the CBD

| Chris Roe
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man with coffee

The Good Grind cafe owner Darren Jackson at his relaunched location.

The Good Grind cafe has been open for almost two weeks at its new Gurwood street premises in Wagga and Darren Jackson says indoor plumbing is one of the bonuses of transitioning from a mobile van to a bricks-and-mortar venue.

“Yep, a bathroom is a bonus and I’m sure it will be a bit warmer in winter too,” he says with a laugh.

The Good Grind brand and Darren’s smiling face are familiar to Wagga motorists who pulled over for a coffee from his van on the Sturt Highway on the western edge of town.

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“For me, the coffee cart was a bit of a step into working for yourself and it gave me a good grounding to see whether I would enjoy it,” Darren says.

“It was also an interesting time because I was among the first round of permits offered by the city council, and for a lot of people it was something very new to Wagga.”

man at coffee van

Darren Jackson’s cafe career began in a van on the Sturt Highway. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Darren quickly built a community of loyal customers and says working outdoors proved to be an advantage during the COVID lockdown.

“I noticed through that period that a lot of people were very isolated and lonely, so we became a safe space for a kind of social gathering where you could have that human interaction,” he explains.

“We just really enjoyed it and the customer base grew.”

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A collaboration with local baker Matt Wynn led to the wildly popular Friday doughnuts and Darren continued to work with other talented chefs to offer a unique range of Wagga-made treats.

“It just went crazy and the customer base continued to grow and I just came to the point where I didn’t think I could serve their needs out of the van anymore, so I decided to make that next step,” he says.


The Good Grind in Gurwood Street continues the street dining tradition. Photo: Chris Roe.

While many businesses are under pressure in the current economic climate, and Darren says his location on the northern side of the CBD is well serviced by some amazing cafes, he feels he can offer a quality, budget option.

“The challenge for us was how we were going to compete in that environment, and we’ll never be a Uneke, Meccanico or Trail Street,” he says, explaining that they aim to keep it simple and affordable.

“I think we’ll be a three-star cafe and takeaway where we pride ourselves on giving great quality and exceptional customer service but being really price competitive.

“You’ll be able to get your coffee and a salad roll for $10 and no-one else is really doing that.”

cafe kitchen

The Good Grind aims to offer a competitive price point in a saturated cafe market. Photo: Chris Roe.

Collaboration with local specialists will continue with an evolving range of decadent doughnuts and pastries alongside fish and chips, summer salads and winter soups.

Darren is also enjoying the historical connection, with the shop dating back to Sam Scollo’s iconic grocery store and milk bar.

“I love the old glass door and the windows and we want to keep a rustic feel with a timber coffee bar and some artwork and just trying to create a welcoming feel,” he says.

“Back when it was Billy’s Cafe, they were the first to put their dining out on the footpath when people thought it would never be successful, but they proved to be trailblazers.

“We love to be continuing that on and it’s an exciting spot to be.”

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