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Bye Bye Nelly's

We sold our coffeehouse after building it and running it for four years.

The whole story started in 2017, when four gymnastics friends had the idea to open a coffeehouse in the city of Zurich. Because actions speak louder than words, we founded the company in 2018 and started looking for a suitable location. Why? None of the founders knows exactly. None of us had ever run a coffeehouse before. We just wanted to do a cool project together. The result was Nelly’s Quartierkafi near Hardbr├╝cke in the 4th district.

The coffeehouse was named after Nelly, Lukas’ grandmother. She was not only famous for her kindness, but also for her baking and cooking skills. Well, maybe not quite, but at least in a small village called Oberhasli. Nelly knew that the best way to a person’s heart was through food and drink, and there was always a place at her table. Our Nelly’s was representative of that hospitality.

We operated Nelly’s non-profit as a social project. Each person who worked at Nelly’s was called a Nelly. Together, the Nellys formed a community of energetic young and young-at-heart Nellys. We all worked at Nelly’s as a balance to our “normal lives” - to promote social interaction in the neighborhood, but also just to have a good time together. Our motto was “Praktisch e Familie”, inspired by the Swiss-German TV series Fascht e Familie.

We called the Nelly’s our “side project”, but in reality it took up a lot of our time and energy. Everything at Nelly’s was homemade, from the licensing, the interior, the furniture, to the food and drinks - mostly local products from the area where we grew up. It was a labor of love. It was a meeting place for everyone to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Customers liked it. We had a 5-star Google review and were featured as a HelloZurich Lieblingsort.

So why did we decide to sell? The two mandatory closures of Swiss restaurants during the Covid waves were not good for business. Because we opened Nelly’s too late, we were not eligible for any government subsidies and had to use our cash flow buffers to pay overhead on an ongoing basis. Since we operated Nelly’s as a side project, we decided not to take on more risk by adding more debt to the balance sheet. Also, none of us wanted to change the business model. We all worked part-time at Nelly’s three days a week. What might have worked in normal times was not enough to cover costs in those two special years. But a big reason was that selling was an option in the first place. We had several offers for our location.

Nelly’s is now called Kafi Hardi. Although the new owners have added their own touches to the place, if you look closely, you can still see many of the details and features we built for Nelly’s. Overall, we have many fond memories. It was a unique experience that deepened our friendships and taught us new skills - from various trades, to restaurant licensing, to operational skills. Most importantly, it was a lot of fun. We will miss it, especially the community and friends who supported our vision of Nelly’s. Thank you all and bye bye Nelly’s.

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The Nelly’s in 2021.

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The founding team from left to right: Lukas R, Joel, myself, and Lukas A.

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We collected old furniture and gymnastique equipment and recycled it by repainting every individual piece. They were then transported from our production location in Oberhasli to the Nelly’s.

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The Nelly’s before and after the renovation in early 2020 - view towards the kitchen.

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The Nelly’s before and after the renovation in early 2020 - view towards the entrance.

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On the weekend we served brunch, here the Turnerzmorge.

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The location could be rented vor events.

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Of course we served delicious coffee with our XLVI Steamhammer machine.

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In our cozy garden it was easy to relax while drinking a cup of coffee or a cold St. Laurentius beer.