Two years after embarking on their dream of becoming entrepreneurs, the Smiths are now serving fantastic coffee to happy customers in Hilton and their new Umhlanga store, Prodigy Coffee House.
So, what prompted a mechanical engineer and a wedding photographer to open a coffee shop? “I always felt there was an entrepreneur somewhere deep inside me that needed to find its wings. We started Ground Coffee House in Hilton in 2016, and it really was the culmination of my passion for coffee, my wife Kristi’s creative flair and that entrepreneurial journey we wanted to embark on,” says Craig.
The couple’s dream started falling into place when Craig decided to buy and restore a 1960 La Pavoni manual lever espresso machine. It took a few months of serious studying and trial and error before he could consistently pull a decent shot of coffee on the machine, but, Craig says, it wasn’t long before he was hooked and started roasting his own coffee.
Two years later, after the success of Ground Coffee House in Hilton, the couple were approached by SHF to create a trendy coffee shop on the Ridge.
“This was an opportunity to work with the best in interior design and get a foothold into the area. The ultimate expression of our dream really is about uplifting communities through farming initiatives in Africa. But right now we are still at grassroots level growing our influence in the retail space. Prodigy Coffee House is just another step in that direction and we’ve always felt that there was an alignment between our product and the Umhlanga market,” says Kristi.
The goal, she says, was to create a space that would be an escape from all the noise and Craig and Kristi drew inspiration from the minimalistic feel they saw emerging in the décor world during a trip to San Francisco three years ago.
“It’s a really clean, minimalistic look with straight lines and geometric shapes. We totally fell in love with these expressions and wanted our patrons to enter Prodigy and feel relief from the bombard of information. A place where they could re-focus and gather their thoughts.”
Prodigy offers a range of specialty coffees, all roasted to suit the various brew methods available. “Although most of our market is still buying espresso-based beverages, we do our best to introduce them to drinking a specialty through a manually brewed method, black of course. This is a lot like sipping on an 18-year-old scotch single malt and just appreciating it for what it is,” says Craig, who encourages his team to study and research their trade as much possible. Two his baristas have competed in the Regional Barista Champs.
Asked what sets their coffee apart, Craig says it’s about three things, “our roasting, our equipment and our process behind the bar! We have a beautiful partnership with Manna Roastery and a very scientific approach to our roasting. I can’t tell you how many hours we spend cupping and refining our roast profiles. We are very committed in this area and we definitely don’t hold back on our equipment! I’ve walked a hard road in the world of mass production. So, you can be sure we have some slick systems behind the bar. All our baristas compete in in-house time trials. Our shops can carve through a queue and hold a quality standard like none I’ve ever seen before.”
Details: Find them at 7 Tetford Circle in Umhlanga, @prodigy_coffee on Instagram
Text: Monique De Villiers-Delport | Photographs: Kristi Smith Photography and Duane Smith Photography