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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Birch

Breathe Easy Wins Best Northside Cafe

Over 40,000 B105 Brisbane listeners and café enthusiasts recently voted to find Brisbane's best independent, locally-owned cafe. After two years in operation, Breathe Easy Café at Rothwell was voted Brisbane’s Best Café Northside and was placed runner-up overall for Best Café in a competition involving more than 600 cafes spanning Brisbane and the surrounding districts.


Owner Trina Rowles describes the win as “amazing” saying, “It is a win for the business, the staff, and the customers. It means this business has something – it is validation that I know what I am doing.”


Hearing that the final count was close, but not “nail-biting-close”, Trina jokes, “That’s lucky because otherwise, my regulars would have copped it!”


Breathe Easy Wins Best Northside Cafe

For Trina, winning the radio competition has clarified the café’s purpose.


“I didn’t get into it [hospitality] for the money – I fell into it,” she says. “The focus is ensuring staff and customers are happy.”


And that doesn’t just mean a friendly smile with your morning coffee but a deeper conversation about what’s happening in a customer’s life should they seem a little down.


“We are social workers – essentially,” Trina says. “We want to make a difference in someone’s day so they can breathe easy.”


“If you don’t leave here feeling better than when you came in, we didn’t do our job right”

Before purchasing the café with her husband Richie, Trina trained in the boxing gym three hours a day, six days a week, while working in the banking sector. A series of injuries and a lack of access to competitions left her disheartened with boxing. On top of that, employment redundancies forced the couple to rethink their options. Richie had always wanted to purchase a business, but Trina wasn’t a fan at first.


“Nothing appealed to me about having a business,” she says. “But Richie makes great coffee, so I organised the paperwork and the foundational business stuff and did the books.”


Several months after opening, Richie felt dissatisfied and returned to work as a flight attendant. With friend Tash looking after the café’s kitchen, Trina took over running the business alone while raising her three young children. She attributes her ability to thrive under that kind of pressure to boxing training.


“Pressure energises me,” she says. “I wanted to be the best boxer in the world.


“Once I decide on something, it is hard for me to give it up – I just don’t. I refuse to. I wanted the title of Best Café, and once I’d made the choice, I was going to do what I needed to get it.”


With a supportive community, plus the introduction of monthly Burger and Open Mic Music Nights, the café’s popularity and number of votes increased.


Trina’s infectious enthusiasm is another factor that makes the café so popular. Although, for Trina herself, it is the connections she’s made with customers that she feels most grateful for.


“The coffee is grand, and the café is full of big smiles,” says regular, Deano Voss. “When I first went there, the owner, (Trina), sat down to chat. Two years on, we are best friends.”


Trina points out that the café is unique in this respect.


“We create a touching experience for customers, making it super special for them – in that moment, so they do talk (to others) about us,” she says. “Everyone values different things, but we value people.”


Revealing that her master cook, Tash, has even been known to help a mum feed her crying baby so she could eat and enjoy her meal, Trina says, “The staff genuinely do care – not just on a tell-your-friends level. It’s an investment in people.”


She says the customers appreciate that authenticity.


“If you don’t leave here feeling better than when you came in, we didn’t do our job right,” she says, as yet another regular pops in with their order. He’s been coming since they first opened, he voted in the competition, and confirms the best thing about the café is the staff – and the ‘Eggs Benny’.


Despite winning the awards, Trina says there are constant challenges in running a small business, and there can be no margin for error. Last week, power outages saw the café lose the contents of their two largest fridges and freezers.


“It is the equivalent of living on the poverty line for a household,” she says.


“You have to be an expert at everything and not make any errors.”


That is when she finds the diversity of skills of each staff member invaluable, stating, “I am great at motivating, encouraging, tweaking, keeping people on track. And I can make great coffee and burgers, but I can’t do it alone.”


While Trina says involvement in the radio competition has taught her to go more with the flow and to “breathe easier” one thing she insists that won’t change is the café’s location.


“We are here to stay,” she says. “This is home. I want the cafe to be here, and I want to do it better.”


Breathe Easy Café

Anzac Avenue & Bremer Street, Rothwell.

Ph 0404 253 429

Monday-Friday, 6.30am-2pm

Saturday, 7am-12pm

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