If you’ve strolled down Adelaide’s bustling Rundle Mall in the past two years, there’s no doubt you would have come across That Coffee Guy.
Identified by his bright red Piaggio Apé, warm and neighbourly attitude, and heavenly coffee, Yiannis Stamos served everything from cappuccinos to cupcakes from his beloved coffee cart to the community of Rundle Mall for 18 months.
But in December 2019, Rundle Mall’s favourite barista packed up his coffee cart one last time for a literal sea change.
Yiannis Stamos is no stranger to change. With five years of plastering experience and a Bachelor of Law under his belt, he knew his life wasn’t meant to be spent indoors and he eventually found himself opening a coffee cart for Caparezza Espresso Bar in Rundle Mall.
When Caparezza decided to cease their coffee cart, owner Phil De Cesare passed his equipment to Yiannis until he found his own, and That Coffee Guy was born.
“Phil hiring and trusting me to open that business and run that cart for him showed me how to run a business by myself. I tell him all the time I’m indebted to him forever, he gave me my big break,” Yiannis explains.
From there, Yiannis became a staple part of the Rundle Mall community’s day; from Tuesday to Saturday, Yiannis would set up his red Piaggio Apé at 6:30am and greet every one of his customers with a smile.
“Customers were strangers to me and to other customers, and then we would become friends over time. It was really cool to see how the coffee cart became a community and a nice meeting point,” he says.
“What motivated me and got me through the day was people would come for the coffee and have the product I was making. To this day, money doesn’t drive me, people enjoying what I’m doing has always motivated me.”
But while Yiannis was passionate about his customers and his coffee cart, his heart was on Kangaroo Island.
After spending several school holidays as a kid in Penneshaw with his best mate Michael Hasting’s family, Yiannis knew he would end up on Kangaroo Island one day.
“I absolutely fell in love with the island, landscape, scenery, fishing, swimming and beaches. It really hooked me in! I knew from a young age I would always want Kangaroo Island to be part of my life in some way,” he says.
It wasn’t just Kangaroo Island’s great Australian landscape that hooked Yiannis in, but also the island’s connection to his Greek heritage.
“Maybe it’s in my blood,” he says. “My family is from Rhodes Island, and Kangaroo Island is a similar size to Rhodes.”
So, in May 2019, he had just purchased a Piaggio Apé in Melbourne to branch out That Coffee Guy into weddings and events, but he couldn’t resist Michael’s business proposal.
“I thought he was ringing to see how I went in Melbourne, which he was, but then he said, ‘The Tandara Lodge is for sale, do you want to go halves?’. My first instinct was to say yes. I knew the property, I knew the potential, I loved the place. I didn’t hesitate, I said yes,” he says.
It seems that Michael’s heart was also on Kangaroo Island, as he had been living there for a couple of months before he called Yiannis.
“I didn’t actually know whether it was something that I wanted either, but I thought this is a good opportunity to start something together. It was definitely an exciting conversation,” Michael says.
While Yiannis was excited about his new adventure, he was sad to say goodbye to his community.
“I made a lot of friends through [That Coffee Guy] and it was sad to say goodbye and start a new chapter. But I was also excited because I knew Kangaroo Island would be a positive experience and I was excited to pursue it,” he explains.
Yiannis and Michael opened Penneshaw Beach Stay in December, and had two weeks of exciting trade before the Australian bushfires threw a spanner in the works.
“We were high fiving! We had implemented a plan for this hotel, and it went really well. We were very happy. Then the bushfires came through and really put a halt on trade’.
While Penneshaw Beach Stay was not directly affected, Yiannis says the Australian bushfires were a real disaster for the island.
But in true Australian style, Kangaroo Island banded together, showing Yiannis why he fell in love with the community in the first place.
“We realised we were part of a really tight-knit community. It was good to be a part of a community coming together, but it was also so tragic for the island. They’re still rebuilding,” he says.
Once the fires subsided, the community started to get back on its feet; Penneshaw Beach Stay had just re-opened their doors when Covid-19 hit.
“To purchase the property, we had to do a business plan for the bank. In the plan, there was a question along the lines of What could go wrong? On that list we never would have thought bushfires or a global pandemic, and we copped two in a very short amount of time,” Yiannis says.
“We hit the reset button again. We thought we’re not going to get guests through the door but now we can refresh the rooms. It was the silver lining that we were actually given time to do all of this. If it had been a busy year, we most likely wouldn’t have had time for it.
“We’re just trying to put as much love and work into it as we can together and hopefully put it on the map in some small way. You think, If I was staying in this room I would be pretty chuffed. You’re looking at the beach in every room. I can’t wait to give people a good time and be able to facilitate them having a good holiday.”
That Coffee Guy and the beautiful hotel beachside are chalk and cheese to Yiannis, but his passion for hospitality remains strong.
“I used to watch the sunrise over the Malls Balls and now I watch the sunrise over my backyard with a kangaroo eating grass. Instead of creating those human connections all the time, I’m connecting with nature,” he says.
So, what’s next for Penneshaw Beach Stay from here? Yiannis and Michael intend to get the rooms perfect, then Yiannis will start introducing his love of Greek food and coffee back into his business.
“We probably want to put up a small pop up, following my pop-up roots, as it’s quite a big piece of land. Then long term, maybe a little eatery with a Mediterranean Greek twist, I would love to bring that [Greek] vibe and culture into the area, something so people have more of a reason to come and say hello,” Yiannis says.
From the obscured angle buildings in Adelaide’s city, to Kangaroo Island’s softer edges, Yiannis Stamos has found the silver lining around every obstacle thrown his way. Bushfires and Covid-19 may have hit hard, but Penneshaw Beach Stay hits harder, and Adelaide can’t wait to see their next swing.
You can find the Penneshaw Beach Stay website here.