Kouda prepares churros and coffee for a customer while his brother Zane refills a tub of ice-cream inside the long glass case. Zane shakes his head with a grin. “After last night…” He lets the sentence trail off with an exhalation of relief. Yesterday was the first truly hot day of the spring, and I’m to take it that it was a busy one for Sprinkles, the lolly and ice-cream shop the Assaad brothers opened together almost two years ago.
At first glance the brothers appear very different, Kouda slightly taller with a mop of curly hair in contrast to Zane’s bald head and thick-rimmed glasses. Both wear neat checked shirts with jeans under crisp aprons, friendly yet professional, just as they are with their customers. The brothers grew up in their parents’ milk bar, where they learned the value of connecting with the people who came in for milk, bread or a newspaper. “You have to have that friendly association with everyone,” Kouda tells me. “You have to serve them as if they’re your neighbour, and sometimes they are.”
The milk bar also gave the brothers a love of lollies and chocolates, and a vision that one day they might open their own shop. This stayed with them even as they began careers in the finance sector. “Everyone has that kind of dream,” Kouda says. “Sometimes the stars just align.” The venue, a former milk bar itself, became available just as Kouda and Zane were ready for a career change. Their father, who’d seen milk bars struggle to compete against supermarkets and convenience store chains, wondered if his sons were making the right choice.
Now, while such rapid success means long hours and hard work, the brothers still show the same excitement and delight as the kids who come in to the store. Throughout my interview with Kouda the very busy Zane can’t help but chime in, unable to contain his pride in what they’ve created. Earlier in the week, groups of children from a nearby school came to visit, not to indulge in sweets but to hear from the brothers about their passion for what they do and how they took a chance to follow their dream. Kouda tells me the same thing he told them. “It’s not about money. Hard work, passion and being in love with what you do goes a long way.”