Ask any North Perth local about Satchmo, and they'll likely respond with, “That's my place!” Maybe it's your place too. Perhaps you tuck into a Reuben while watching live jazz on Sundays, warm up with a gumbo on rainy days or stop there for your usual coffee and bagel on the way to work.
Whatever you order, whichever day, one thing's for sure: you feel welcome. Because what owner Nathan Karnovsky does well – and he does a lot well – is make Satchmo feel like home.
Nathan and his mum Benedikte Karnovsky opened Satchmo in 2015, and it instantly became a North Perth community hub. It’s a cafe that has survived the ups and downs of hospitality and continues to be the essence of the neighbourhood.
The food, coffee and music would have guaranteed Satchmo’s popularity alone, but the chats are what keep people coming back. “I know that I could be the only person a customer speaks to all day, so simply asking about their day and then genuinely responding makes a huge difference. It means something,” says Nathan.
It certainly means something, especially to the locals. Regulars make up 70 per cent of Satchmo customers, and many call Nathan a friend. People have held their weddings and even mourned the passing of loved ones at wakes at the cafe.
Despite seven years of memories at his little corner of North Perth, Nathan felt it was time to move the cafe elsewhere (he admits the original site was never the “dream place”). He had only started looking for a new lease when a historic art deco building on the corner of Fitzgerald and Forrest streets in North Perth – which once housed Korean fried chicken restaurant 7Grams – became available. The best part? It is only two doors down from the original Satchmo.
It’s the kind of place Nathan imagined when first dreaming about opening a cafe. “I love the wooden floorboards, the high ceilings and the beautiful natural light that shines through the windows,” he says. “It has history and a feeling of age … the good kind of age.”
Satchmo regulars can rest assured the new cafe will have the same consistently good coffee (Twin Peaks), same great tunes (strictly jazz), same people (Nathan will be behind the machine) and the same cosiness. There are some changes, though.
The diner aesthetic will be taken up a notch. “It will have the warm ambience of diners from the ’60 to ’70s,” says Nathan. Vintage TV shows are another inspiration. “I want people to walk in and think of the old Twin Peaks show or Seinfeld. That would make me happy.”
A keen DIY-er with a penchant for a lived-in style, Nathan did most of the fit-out himself with help from local furniture restorer, Benskys Vintage, who built the counter with salvaged timber from mid-century houses in Floreat. He also enlisted Dream Neon to install custom neon, including one welcoming locals on Forrest street and signalling the new coffee window and a menu lightbox creating a soft glow inside.
“A good cafe is a place where you can sink into a seat and read a book. Warm light is conducive to that,” says Nathan. There will also be booths (of course) and plenty of seating outside.
When it comes to food, Satchmo's unique mix of New York-style deli food and hearty New Orleans fare will continue (the Reuben and gumbo are still on the menu), but there are new additions too.
The muffuletta sandwich with olive salad, mortadella, Napoli salami, coppa di parma and provolone cheese will likely become a staple. Or you can sink your teeth into a meatball hoagie with meatballs, pepperoni sugo sauce and three cheeses on a crusty roll.
If you're a Satch regular and the change feels unsettling, rest assured you can call the new space home for at least another five years, maybe even 15. Nathan has a rolling lease and wants to continue nurturing the community and hanging with his North Perth friends.
“When I opened Satchmo, I wanted to create an institution. That takes time. The new space is permanent. We’re not going anywhere.”
Satchmo will re-open on Saturday July 9.
Mon to Sat 7am–3pm