By Vivienne Pearson
Many people dream of owning a cafe. Ajmal (AJ) Barikzai was not one of those people.
Yet he is now the proud owner of The Hideout, a hidden gem of a cafe off Bay Lane in Byron Bay.
The driving force behind his change from being more than gainfully employed in the world of corporate finance in Sydney was his children. After his marriage ended, AJ’s kids moved with their mother to Byron Bay.
AJ desperately wanted to be close to them but couldn’t find work in his specialised field nearby, even in Brisbane. So, he took the plunge into hospitality.
‘Now I’m a coffee maker, a cook, a dishwasher and I’m front-of-house,’ AJ says. ‘And a builder and painter,’ he adds, referring to his whirlwind renovation of the space that was previously Cool Kats Café – AJ kept the name until the business felt settled enough to make that change.
AJ is refreshingly honest when he says that he didn’t know the first thing about running a cafe – something he has in common with many who dream of owning one. ‘On my first day, I didn’t know what to do, so I put myself on dishes,’ says AJ. ‘I did that until I could keep up with the demand for glasses and cutlery, then I learned about coffee, then everything else.’
He gives full credit to his staff, especially those who made the transition from the previous owner during the amicable handover. Of Bec Bloomfield, manager, he says: ‘She’s been here six years and is the key to this place’. Diego Moro, the main barista, has been there for four years and Brendan Arthur, the chef, also received high AJ-praise.
The cafe is a lovely hideout spot. It has a small inside area dominated by a corrugated-iron bar and exposed brick (which AJ discovered by accident during the renovations!). The outside area is decked, roofed and able to be made weatherproof when needed.
The menu offers all-day breakfast, pastas, salads, burgers and wraps. Beer, cider, and a conversational wine list are open to people who are eating. Try the Alchemy sparkling waters – not too sweet and delightfully refreshing.
The Hideout is part of the growing new laneway scene in Byron, being across the small car park from Red Hot & Green and Light Years and next door to Orgasmic Food.
AJ loves his unexpected Byron sea change, is proud of his cafe and is happy to have achieved his aim of being a hands-on dad. AJ’s seven-year-old daughter, Tahmina, and five-year-old son, Idris, go to Byron Community School and, of course, love visiting The Hideout with their dad.
The Hideout, Shop 6, 13 Lawson Street (in practice – via Bay Lane, behind the Beach Hotel). 7 days, 7.30am–3pm.
Ph: 6680 3900, Instagram: @thehideoutbyronbay
Parents in business and the business of parenting
Read any media stories about a woman in business and it will likely focus on whether or not they have children and, if they do, how they manage to ‘do it all’. The word mother may be bandied about more prominently than her work-related role.
It’s the opposite when the story is about a man. Male businesspeople’s personal lives, let alone their parenting responsibilities, rarely rate a mention.
Aside from being quietly furious about this double standard, my approach when writing is to find out about a business owner’s children only if the topic comes up in conversation. I include details in the story if they are relevant and if I have permission to do so. I hope I do this equally for men and women.
For AJ from The Hideout – see story opposite – his children are the driving force for his entire business. So, regardless of his gender, his children are the focus of the story.
I am impressed by AJ’s dedication to his parenting role (as I would be with a parent of either gender who gave up an established career to be with their kids) and appreciate his honesty in allowing his fatherhood role to be front and centre of his story.