Arthur's Mini Super: Cape Town's community cafe

This general store and eatery is at the heart of its neighborhood. We chat to the founders who fight over tea, but agree on everything else.
Arthur's Mini Super 16x9 hero

Arthur's Mini Super opened in December 2018 behind a pillar-box red shopfront on Arthurs Road in Cape Town's Sea Point, between the ocean-front promenade and the neighborhood's busy Main Road. Sea Point isn't short of restaurants and coffee shops, but Arthur's sets itself apart through a sense of community – and a sense of fun. Stepping over the doorstep artwork that reads ‘Whuddup fam!’, people will usually meet one or both co-founders, Will Hobson and Stephanie Anastasopoulos, and barista Gift Chawezi Chirwa behind the counter. Over an iced coffee, we hear how the pair set up shop, weathered the pandemic and are now planning for their future.

The owners

Will: ‘Stephanie and I have a very long history. My late father-in-law and Stephanie's dad were very good friends at school and [graduated from] St John's [College] in Johannesburg in 1968. And Stephie is very good friends with my wife.’

Stephanie: ‘We grew up together, me and Willy's wife, in Johannesburg.’

Will: ‘We became good collaborators and friends when we worked together on Stephie's sister's cookbook. Stephanie did the food styling and I was one of the cooks.’

Stephanie: ‘I was a wardrobe stylist before this. I did commercials and [TV] series. And food styling. I was in more of a design world.’

Will: ‘I've always loved food and, when I was studying at university, I got involved in food production, supplying offices with food – salads and sandwiches and stuff. I went away for a while, to Chicago, and when I came back, I was just looking for stuff to do. I thought it'd be cool – which was, with hindsight, a bit stupid – if I could get a passive income [through a] hole in the wall, and continue to do something else. I was looking for a tiny little [space] – literally like a cupboard – for a coffee machine and a cool barista, and sell coffee for four hours a day. But my parents used to have a flat just up the road and I was walking and there [was] a big “to let” sign on the shop. I thought: it's a bit big, but I'll just phone them. It used to be just this shop [half the current store]. They said, ”You can have it right now.” Stephanie lived half a block away. The rent's pretty good, for Sea Point. I thought: yeah, I'll jump in.’

Stephanie: ‘He called me and said, “There's a shop to let – let's do this.” I was a big scaredy pants. But he twisted my arm.’

The concept

Will: ‘We set it up originally to be like a high-end fruit and veg grocer, which there are a lot of in Joburg – these independently owned little greengrocers that we missed. They've got their unique bread that they make, or it's the only place you can get vanilla pods, or whatever, and they're very community supported. So, we were aiming to set up one of those. But the demand for food just became higher and higher. And, I think, it's mainly what we're interested in, if we're honest with ourselves. Now it's a full-blown restaurant.’

The partnership 

Will: ‘We're 50:50 in everything. I trust Stephanie's judgment. Our vision might be only slightly different, if you go down to the nitty-gritty.’

Stephanie: ‘But, on a macro level, it's the same.’

Will: ‘The biggest disagreement we've had is over tea. I feel it should be bottomless, but Stephanie feels it should be one teabag and one pot of water, because we're running a business.’

The produce

Stephanie: ‘In terms of suppliers, we did a lot of work in the very beginning – going to markets, tasting things, deciding what our best salami was. And, now that we're open and we have a reputation, people just come to us with their stuff.’

The community

Will: ‘Our shop is a little safe environment for all kinds of people who've been coming here from day one – it's really nice, because it makes it feel like we've achieved what we set out to achieve, which is a community shop and a comfortable space. Like this guy [motions to a man entering the store]. He'll walk in and not order anything – he'll just sit here and chat and then leave. And it's fun. I wish we were filming and turning it into a sitcom.’

Stephanie: ‘There's a guy who lives upstairs [and] has a tab here. He'll come downstairs in his pajamas. And there's a mom and daughter – they own a business here, so they come in twice a day, every day. It's so special.’

Will: ‘Both of us really love that. I've made really good friends through the shop.’

Stephanie: ‘We also have a very special staff. We started out just with me, Willy and Gift. So, just one employee. And, very slowly, we've added on these very special people. We're still a very small team – five full‑time and two part-time.’

The pandemic

Will: ‘I do want to congratulate both me and Stephanie because it was so hard. We really did – for lack of a better word – pivot. We managed to retain all our staff and keep paying them in full, but they didn't have to come to work. We saw that our main following were locals and people who follow us on Instagram. So, we put all our products on Instagram. Stephanie and I would report to work every day. Pack orders, take orders, drive around and deliver stuff. We were lucky that we had a small team. Our overheads weren't, at that stage, very high. Our landlord came to the party for one month and gave us a rent reduction. We were also lucky that the community really supported us. People stopped shopping at Woolies [supermarket chain Woolworths] and came to buy groceries with us.’

The future

Will: ‘Just before the pandemic, we bought extra space, knocked out a wall and built a full-size kitchen, and took on some more staff. We've just applied for a liquor license and we're going to open a little bar in the evenings – just because working 12 hours a day wasn't enough for us. I don't think we'll ever leave being under one roof. But I also want to get into manufacturing – getting our chilli sauce and biscuits into grocery stores.’

Stephanie: ‘I'm very excited about the bar. But I think we'll be surprised by what the customers want – we have an idea of what it's going to be, but then they'll decide what it's actually going to be. So, this time, we'll be more fluid.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 46, April/May 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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