INTERVIEW WITH MADELEINE DE LA COUR, JOHAN DE LA COUR, AGNES RANELID AND MARTIN RANELID
Agnes married Martin. Johan married Madeleine. And so the story begins. This past January, the couples joined forces and opened Le Glorieux Café Dornonville. It is Malmö’s first pink café. On its menu, they sell a mean cup of coffee, classic Swedish breakfast, an exotic açaí bowl, among other treats. We asked how two couples got together and somehow worked seamlessly through a shared vision. It’s not everyday that this sort of collaboration occurs. Johan sometimes takes Agnes and Martin’s kids to the park while Agnes works as the resident barista nearly every day. Madeleine is on maternity leave and hunts for new recipes learning to navigate current trends and restocks items. All the while, Johan and Martin have an interior design company. The couples have a DIY type of work ethic that’s both brave and unusual. Not many people write their own rules in business, especially with their spouse and young kids in tow. They are doing this their own way and it works. Walking into Le Glorieux Café Dornonville, the café is just as unique as its origin story. The furniture has a chic 1970s vibe, there are plants everywhere and did we mention the walls are the colour of a California sunset? They have made a café that looks more like an interior design magazine than a place to eat and drink. After sitting in one of their retro chairs with a tasty latte, Creative Malmö can’t imagine a better, or more stylish way, to enjoy a fika.
Before we started recording, we were talking about how you all had this café idea for seven years…
Agnes: Yes a very, very long time because I had been working in shops in Denmark and it’s quite a big problem when you have two small kids and you have to be going across the Oresund bridge and commute between Copenhagen and Malmö. So we were talking and talking and talking about settling in Malmö with a café, but we never came to the goal. Then, Johan called me one day about starting a café, and we were like, “Yes! Let’s do it.”
So you both independently as couples had this idea to create a café?
Johan: Actually, no. One year ago, Martin and I started an interior design company called Ranelid de la Cour Studio. It is based here in Malmö. While searching for a bigger office with a showroom, we ran into this café space. After a couple of months, we sat here in the empty dusty room and through lots of weird ideas we decided that maybe we should do a café. Then, I asked Martin, what if we asked Agnes if she wanted to run the café since she was working in Denmark and was going back and forth too much over the bridge. Agnes was willing to do the café idea.
Madeleine: And so the story begins…
Johan: At this point, Madeleine and Agnes run the café and we focus on our other business. As we move forward, it’s going to be more these two ladies doing the café. Of course, Martin and I also partly own the café but it’s their show, really. They will move it forward.
Madeleine: Yeah, in autumn, when we put our baby in daycare, I am going to be here full time too.
Agnes: We will then expand our opening hours in September.
You guys have had to create a lot of symbiosis between things: between each other’s working styles, between interior design and café work, and family life and business life. How do you balance all of these separate things together?
Johan: We don’t. We don’t balance it. If we are going to see some problems that may be it— imbalance. Often, we just go into things if it sounds right to us. We just take it as it comes. That could be difficult in a business. Eventually, we will find our way to do it, and it will drive us forward.
Agnes: It could be a strength to improvise. Also, I don’t think that so many people have two kids and a lot of things to pay for who suddenly open up a café. There is no rule book for this sort of situation. So, as Johan said, we aren’t thinking so much and that can be a strength but it may catch up with us and be a bad thing. In the end, we have each other and everything has worked out so far.
Johan: We do think a lot and we have many ideas, but we are guided by intuition and feeling.
So you guys improvise, but it’s always thoughtful?
What steps did you take to decide your work process? After the initial idea of a café, did you guys start with a casual dinner together or did you immediately lay down very formal plans?
Madeleine: I would say immediately it was very serious.
Agnes: I actually stopped working right then.
How quickly did you stop your work after the idea for a café came about?
Agnes: I would say it was not so good. I was very brave. I stopped my job too early I would say. I stopped work in October of 2016 and we opened in January 2017. I thought we would open even quicker. But I made the most of it. I went to Stockholm and studied how to be a barista at Il Caffé. For nine days I studied there.
Were you never a barista before?
Agnes: No, no. I had never done it in my life.
Madeleine: Neither of us had ever worked in a café.
Agnes: In the end, I should have stayed at my other work longer and saved some money, but we managed between the kids and business. Somehow we made it. I thought to myself, what the hell have we done? There wasn’t much of a plan. But everything has been so smooth and so good, I think it will only get better, especially when Madeleine starts.
So you all have this new-found passion for coffee and brewing it. Has it been a struggle to find interest in coffee or was it love at first sight?
Agnes: First off, I think the whole aesthetic, the rooms and the decorations, we have here are so nice. It doesn’t feel like I’m going to work, it feels like I’m going home. Everyone coming in here comments on how nice it is because it’s cozy. It is the whole atmosphere that makes me happy. It is the physical café and the coffee that make me so interested. But in the beginning we knew very little. So, Johan and I went on Google [laughing]. The first place we went to is Monteriva that is owned by Oscar Berg, and we talked to him and got to know the coffee. We knew it was the coffee we had to have. I initially wanted the Italian coffee I worked with in Stockholm at Il Caffé, but they exclusively sell to them. We went with Oscar’s brew instead and it’s been great.
Johan: None of us are big coffee drinkers, especially Madeleine who doesn’t drink coffee (sometimes a cappuccino). Me and Martin prefer filter coffee.
Agnes: I love coffee, I still don’t know everything about it, but I love it.
Madeleine: Our idea for a café didn’t begin with food or drink, it began with the atmosphere. We wanted it to feel warm and welcoming. It is a place to go to feel good. We don’t just want the best coffee or the best sandwich; we want the place to be amazing too. It’s the whole package.
Johan: None of us are experienced baristas, so we don’t have that background. When we started the café, we thought a lot about the aesthetic. As for the food and drink, we knew we wanted it to be local. Maybe we don’t sell the best objectively, but we choose what we personally like and think is the best. We personally believe we have the nicest atmosphere and some proper coffee and food.
Agnes: A lot of the time, we think what we would want out of a café on a Sunday morning. There isn’t a place in Malmö that I truly love. My kids want to go to Espresso House. That’s not our scene. So, we wanted to create our own place. We made this café just as we want, including the food and coffee. Everything we have here we like ourselves. It’s the things I like and Madeleine likes and Martin likes and Johan likes. Our açaí comes from Lotta Love, we get our cheese from Bengtson’s Cheese, our tea is from Tea Junkie. I actually had a delivery of cardamom buns from Stockholm that I loved and I went around trying to find someone to replicate them here. We now have St. Jakobs Stenungsbageri do them—they are famous in Skåne for their cardamom buns, cinnamon buns and other pastries.
Johan: Our cardamom buns from St. Jakobs turned out better than the ones from Stockholm.
Your café definitely looks like an interior designer’s café rather than just a foodie’s café. That is what is so unique about this place: you walk in and it has a ‘wow’ factor. It looks very designy. It is unique and curated, yet each piece comes together. You can tell someone really has an eye and worked hard on the interior. Usually, food comes first and design second. Though we just tried your latte with Oatly, and it’s very good too. Rich, nutty and not too acidic. You have both a good interior and a good cup of coffee. But since you define yourselves by the aesthetic, do you feel like you are outsiders in the restaurant/café scene here in Malmö?
Agnes: I think we are outsiders. To be honest, we don’t know so much about things. The cool thing about us is that we stand up for what we believe in. We didn’t create this café to please the masses. We like it this way. We also always try out things together, we always innovate. We don’t work like other restaurants because we don’t have the same set of knowledge or strict rules. People are liking our new approach and find it refreshing. We have a relaxed environment and I try to include everyone in a conversation who come in here. By not knowing so much, we are carving out our own style of café.
Johan: We have all the ideas of how we want the place to look and the feeling we want people to have when visiting. If we start with the feeling of the café and how people react to it, we will always be mindful of their business and their time spent at the café. In the meantime, we just hope to get better and better at running a café and all it entails. We have high standards even if we aren’t typical café owners and baristas. People haven’t complained…yet [laughing]. After our first quarter, we hope to have even more people coming here.
Why Malmö? Why is it both your home and where you chose to have your café?
Agnes: I was born here forty years ago, but when I was ten my family and I moved to Stockholm. I moved back to Malmö at twenty-four after selling my apartment. One year after, I met my husband, Martin. Every year, our whole marriage actually, he has wanted to move from Malmö to another country. Malmö can be boring, but it can also be really, really good. There is a lot happening if you look for it. We are now settled here. Martin has also settled in more now that we have this café and he and Johan started the interior design company. Since Martin works with such a close friend it helps him love this city more. We are all adding something to Malmö with this café. Malmo needs a pink café. Everything looks the same here. We have H&M, Gina Tricot and Espresso House at every corner…everything is the same here.
It’s true, small businesses are the jewels of every city…
Agnes: Yes, and we need to be here to have this café and add something nice.
Madeleine: Also, Malmö has a reputation of being rough, but there are actually so many good things happening here. People want to contribute to the city and do nice things to it. We want to show the better side of Malmö. I was born a bit outside of Malmö, but now we live in Malmö. I moved to Malmö when I was about 20 years old. Johan and I have lived all over the city. I love this city and I love the beauty and the roughness. We are working for a better Malmö. There are more cafes and small shops opening everyday.
Agnes: I think people are also struggling and really trying to do something different. There are people doing urban farming or opening companies. All sorts of things. There are people coming in our café and having meetings. So we even overhear how things are happening.
Johan: Martin and I are born and raised in Malmö. I’m from one side of the city and he’s from another side. I’ve only ever lived in Malmö, with the exception of six months when I was working in Jönköping. It wasn’t great at all, so I moved back to Malmö. I think there is too much focus on the bad things in Malmö. People outside of Malmö are the ones really giving this city a bad reputation through misinformation. It really isn’t as bad as people say. Malmö is super nice. That’s why I came back to it.
Madeleine: It’s a small big city.
Johan: Malmö is also quite trendy and up-and-coming. Speaking to people from Stockholm, they are realising that Malmö has something no other town in Sweden can offer. I’m always going to love this town and I will do what I need to do to help it. If I tell outsiders I’m from Malmö, they always cite the violence. But look at the violence in Stockholm. There is violence in Gothenburg. There is violence everywhere. If you look outside our Swedish borders and compare, Sweden is, despite everything, still one of the safest countries in the world. Malmö is friendly and open. I’m quite tired of hearing from people that have never been to Malmö that it is bad.
Have you gotten regulars since you opened?
Madeleine: Actually, a lot of regulars. It’s really nice. We have all different ages come in I’ve noticed. Young and old.
Agnes: Everyone is welcome.
Madeleine: For older people, they recognise our retro furniture from their heydey and for the younger people they love to Instagram our unique interior.
Johan: Actually, the first week we had older people come in and then more young people have come into the mix.
Could this be considered a café to work at as well? Is there wifi for those interested in bringing their computers?
Agnes: Yes, we have wifi. We actually have quite a bit of people who drop off their kids and then come here to work on their laptops.
Johan: This is also like a café you would want to bring a first date. We hear that a lot. In our ears that sounds really good.
Madeleine: It makes our café sound intimate.
Johan: You always want to impress on a first date, and this café does that.
What are your bestsellers here at the café?
Johan: We sell the most units of coffee, of course.
Agnes: Then it’s the açaí bowl and the avocado sandwich. So many of our recipes come from Instagram.
Johan: But the idea for a classic Swedish breakfast came from me. Martin and I are traditional and old-school, so we wanted Swedish food. We are like two old men who think we know everything. But then Agnes and Madeleine have brought a lot of modern and trendy ideas, it’s helped us sell a lot. We are traditional but with a twist!
You are not only small independent business owners, but parents and half of you are women. Mothers are not typically small business owners. Madeleine and Agnes, what advice would you give to mothers interested in opening their own café or shop?
Agnes: You need to be brave. If you want to do something, do it. Money is not the most important thing, I’ve noticed. It shouldn’t drive you, your aspirations should.
Madeleine: I’m also thinking along the lines of teamwork. Be a team with your partner and co-workers. Help each other out with work and help each other with your kids.
Agnes: I’ve offered to watch their dog last week and recently Johan offered to take my kids to the playground. We always help one another, otherwise this wouldn’t work.
Is that the same advice you would give to a couple who are looking to open their own business?
Johan: 100%. Collaboration and communication between everyone involved is key. We can speak about everything together and we understand each other even when we argue.
Agnes: It helps that Martin and Johan have known each other for decades. But I haven’t known Madeleine for very long at all. We all had to become close very quickly. Maybe we only understand each other one time out of ten, but we discuss and work things out. We have been angry at each other but we move forward quickly.
Johan: Listen to your colleagues. I’m not saying I’m perfect at that, but you have to learn how to listen and be able to realise when you’re wrong.
Are there any plans brewing that we can expect from you in the future? Any additions to the menu? Special events?
Madeleine: We eventually plan to make this more than a café. We want more events. Like hosting book releases or special speakers.
Agnes: We would also like to have artists display their works on our walls.
Madeleine: But the menu will not change too much.
Agnes: Just small additions and tweaks.
Johan: But like Agnes said, we want this to be more of an event space. We want to publicise that this space is available to rent for events. In the past, we have had someone rent it out.
What is one word that you would use to sum up this café?
Madeleine: It’s not one word, but a phrase: ‘The Pink Café.’
Johan: This colour is actually what people talk about most. Everything we have done here to get the right colour was very intentional. Martin and I sat for many nights trying at least 50 to 100 different colours. When it came to making the interior of the café, we put maybe the most time into getting the right colour. It took many hours to find the right furniture as well. But the colour was by far the most difficult part. Pink can be really pink as well, which means overwhelming. We went for the classic California pink, less in your face.
Agnes: We are the proudest of the interior because no one else’s café looks like ours. It’s all uniquely put together. We don’t want to be original, that isn’t our mindset because it would come off as contrived. We are working with our individual preferences and desires. This all happened organically.
Johan: When I met my wife and also when I met Martin, our philosophy was always about doing something together. It was about the ‘we.’ It was about coming up with something totally our own.
Agnes: We could have easily made a café in Stortorget with 100 chairs. Now we are talking money. It would have been so easy. But what we made is not so easy. We are putting in so much effort into something that is independent and unique, not for the masses.
Johan: It cost us a lot of money.
Agnes: If you make something with 100 seats and fast coffee all day long, I think there is no heart or soul in it. For us, it is a lot of effort behind all of what we are doing here. We may seem chill and calm but we are constantly thinking of what’s next. I’m even on the phone with Madeleine everyday.
Madeleine: Yeah, and I send inspiration and photos to her all the time. Instagram photos and recipes.
Agnes: Anyone can open a café, but to make something special it takes effort. I try to strike a conversation with everyone in the coffee shop. People have a need of talking. A lot of people come here alone. There was one man who was seventy and we ended up talking for two hours. He told me everything about his life and his daughter.
Madeleine: You may have heard that Swedes are very closed off or don’t talk to people, but this café is trying to go against that. It’s pink, it’s warm and we talk to people.
Agnes: People find each other here. I’ve seen people exchanging cards and numbers.
Madeleine: We’re going to change the world [laughing].
Le Glorieux Café Dornonville
Stora Nygatan 42, Malmö
Tuesday-Friday 8 – 15
Saturdays 11 – 16
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Facebook: Café Dornonville