Wolves Café has filled a gap for the residents of Illovo and the surrounding areas in Jo’burg. It’s a hub of creativity for artists in need of wall space and musicians in need of an audience hungry for non-radio-playlisted music. There’s free Wi-Fi for those in need of an office and coffee (or craft beer). And most importantly, there’s delicious home-baked confectionery. We’ll never forget a friend’s description of a Wolves red-velvet cupcake as being like “eating someone’s well-groomed ponytail”. If you’ve ever buried your face in the sweet-smelling mane of some gorgeous creature, you’ll appreciate the gravity of that compliment.
When I moved into the block of flats next door to the assortment of bars, restaurants and shops at the top of Corlett Drive, I never imagined the impact it would have on my life and social circle. And Wolves has been at the centre of this lifestyle change. A change from mall spots to street-café life, actually getting to know my quirky neighbours, and enjoying the local folk scene, I love so dearly, every week. Plus, easy access to &Union beer, albums you won’t find in commercial music stores, and Frankie Magazine is nothing short of a miracle in Johannesburg.
I could go on and on about how wonderful this café is, but I thought it’d be better to hear it from the owners’ mouths. Wolves’ parents (and owners of the record label: Howl Records), Shane and Angie Durrant, are two incredibly busy people, so an extra-colourful thank-you sash, made of bunting, goes to Shane for taking the time to answer a couple of questions…
YM: How was Wolves born?
SD: Angie, Greg (the friend we originally opened the place with) and I along with loads of our friends all live in Illovo and often spoke about how the area could really do with a ‘Central Perk’. A little place with a relaxed atmosphere for people to meet up, do some work, hang out, maybe bump into someone you know… Then the old Laundromat closed down and we thought, ‘Hey, what the hell, let’s do this thing, you guys!’
YM: Between the two of you, how many jobs are you actually holding down?
SD: It’s difficult to say for sure… Angie is an art director at Network BBDO, a blogger for Lucky Pony, and a baker-slash-waitress for Wolves. I am the singer for Desmond & The Tutus, a manager-slash-Facebooker for Wolves, and a designer-slash-copywriter for the ad industry.
YM: Who is responsible for what at the café?
SD: Angie is in charge of the baked goods and the girly stuff, like the jewellery and stationery for sale on our bookshelf. I handle more of the day-to-day functioning of the place.
YM: What’s the most awesome thing to have occurred as a result of owning Wolves?
SD: During the day, the space really is an office – people love that it’s a chilled place to spend a few hours working and thinking. It’s rewarding for me when I chat to someone and they make a comment about how a TV show they came up with while sitting at Wolves has been picked up by a station, or a book someone worked on while sitting here is being published. That kind of thing is really great to hear. It’s also been amazing to see how our humble Thursday-night music event has become a source for exciting new music for so many people.
YM: And the least…?
SD: Running a restaurant is hard! And it’s something we weren’t really prepared for. So every now and then we have to field a negative comment about the service or something, and that’s not great to have to deal with – but hey, you can’t please everyone!
YM: Have you ever had complaints from the neighbours or problems with the police on Howl Nights?
We have never had anyone complain about the music on a Thursday night, but every now and then the police rock up around midnight and tell a group of cackling girls sitting outside to keep it down.
YM: It’s possible that you’ve served every single one in Johannesburg, so what is your definition of a hipster kid?
SD: You’d think that we would have served everyone Johannesburg, but every week we’ve got another group of people saying how they live just up the road and had no idea we were down here. The term seems to have become a bit of an insult in the last few years, so I don’t know many people who would willingly refer to themselves as hipsters… but I think the word generally speaks about someone interested in the arts and design, fashion and local independent music.