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Ellis Thomas from Roast Coffee

Sarah Blake from We Own Rotterdam interviews Ellis Thomas, co-owner at Roast Coffee, opening soon in Rotterdam West.



A zoom call taking place from Rotterdam West, all the way to (very close by in) Rotterdam West. Social distance catch-up.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself, your role at Roast coffee Rotterdam, and what excites you about being there? 

My name is Ellis, I’m 28 years old and I moved to Rotterdam in 2017 from a little town in the North of England. And, I’m co-owner of Roast Rotterdam. 


What excites me about being here? Just the whole experience. It’s a beautiful place, we’ve got a good vision, and it all feels quite surreal. I’m very excited about the whole vision we have going on, to show people, and we all can’t wait to open. 



What have been your biggest learnings/ scares so far in moving into the world of entrepreneurship? 

I think the scariest thing about it is taking that leap. There have been lots of discussions: “we should open a café, we should do this, we should do that,” but it all starts when you make that first commitment. You leave your job, you’re jobless, and then you have to follow your vision, and stick to the plan. I’ve always believed that ‘he who dares, wins’. You have to take those risks in life, and this is one of them. 


If I look back on the way I was before we took that jump; yes I was very nervous, lots of thoughts, identifying what could go wrong. But, since we’ve taken the step, it all seems possible. Everything is happening, it’s all moving fast and in a really good way. So, you just have to have a strong plan, believe in it, and go for it – a calculated risk.




Roast Coffee, Rotterdam




How have the restrictions from the Corona Virus affected your operations, and what are you currently working on to navigate around it? 

We were planning to open on the 1st of April, and we were due to have someone from the council come down. They were supposed to review the area and make sure everything was safe, so we could get our operating license. Then the lockdown happened, just as we were waiting for them to arrive. Now, we haven’t had anyone come, so technically we can’t open. That’s how it is currently affecting us, in getting that go-ahead from the council. So, that’s been the only set-back and it’s due to happen next week. 


 We might be able to open in the next few weeks for take-away. So, the timing has been weird, and I feel maybe we’ve dodged a bullet. There are a lot of places suffering, others doing well, but we’ve just got to wait a bit longer for this to be over. We can open slowly for take-away, with the same coffee menu, and we have a little area at the front, so we can have restricted access to follow all of the rules. We have time to come up with a plan, on how we can get the best from this situation. It’s pointless being upset about it, we can’t change it. It is what it is.


It seems that there is a shared sense of community with small business owners in Rotterdam right now. Are you feeling included in that yet?

I feel like we’re stepping into it. It did happen at a bad time for us to get our name out there. We are the new kids on the block, we are known, but this has put us back from getting ourselves on the map. We’ve been getting support from the local area, local businesses, meeting the neighbours. It’s just a difficult one, we aren’t open, we haven’t got anything to offer just yet, and nobody really knows what we can do. We have a lot of support, but due to us not being open, we can’t be as supported as the well-established businesses. 



What can we all do right now to support you at Roast, and in general to support local business?

Just follow the businesses on social media, follow Roast on the socials. Follow our movements, see what we’re up to because that’s the only possible help until we open. Just be there for these local establishments, they can’t help the restrictions, their doors are still technically open, and they still have their bills to pay. Be there where you can, support their socials, and when this all ends, come down have a coffee, and try our food.




‘Simple isn’t it? We think so! This is all that goes into our sautéed mushroom on toasted sour dough’. Soon you can try yourself, from Roast’s menu.




What have been your biggest inspirations in the design of your own space? 

Well, that’s the role I’ve taken in this. I’m the visionary of the team, so I have a lot of say in the way it looks. We wanted a clear workspace, minimalistic design, a lot of plants and herbal areas. We like the minimalistic look because we want to shine through our coffee, which means putting in quite a technical coffee area. We’ve got big bay windows, so it’s bright in here – simplistic design. I like that clean look: white walls, plants, good music. Somewhere you feel comfortable with, not too packed, or busy design-wise. It’s going to be flowy and chilled. 


Much of our inspiration comes from Australasia and the Melbourne coffee scene. We’ve all worked around that area – New Zealand and Australia – in coffee. So we want to bring that international vibe to Rotterdam. We feel like coffee still needs to peak in the Netherlands. It’s not as big as it could be and what it is going to be. So, that’s why in Rotterdam, we want to bring that international coffee vibe – the all-day breakfast in that sunny café you get in these sorts of places. Melbourne is a big part of my heart, so it’s a big inspiration.



Another Roast teaser- Spiced Poached pear, and homemade granola.




What do you hope to take away from this experience moving forward? 

I think we have to learn to just be ready for anything. We’ve been planning this for 3-4 years, and for this to happen just as we had planned to open, it’s unheard of, and crazy timing. You’ve just always got to have a plan B, and stay positive. We’re in uneasy times, but we will get through it. Stick to your plan, keep your head up high, and keep on keepin’ on. 




Visit Roast Coffee!






A Sunny extra…

if you miss chilling out with your friends in cafe’s,  like I do; here is a playlist and a podcast that I like to spin, whilst sitting down with a coffee at home. Soon we’ll catch each other again, try a coffee at Roast, and be back at our favourite places around the city~ Sarah x


Creative Rebels: An Inspiring podcast that interviews creatives that have rebelled against the 9-5.


Miscellaneous mix of songs that make me dance. 





Interview by Sarah Blake


Check out our online cultural calendar at We Own Rotterdam