The simple act of gifting a coffee to a stranger has led to a legacy of almost 10,000 coffees being bought by thoughtful patrons at a central Perth espresso bar. 

Game City Espresso is a coffee shop with a difference, combining a great brew with nostalgic arcade games, all while creating a goodwill legacy. 

Owner Dharmesh Patel explains, “When people come in to buy themselves a coffee, they can buy another then write a thoughtful message or just a hello on a sticky note and post it to our wall so other patrons can redeem that coffee along with the positive message.” 

“We have kept the post it notes and put them all over the walls of the café.” 

“At last count there were about 10,000, which makes quite a colourful sight on the wall.” 

“It’s a conversation starter when patrons ask about them, which helps to keep the gesture going.” 

Creating a unique blend 

Dharmesh said the freedom to innovate and create something unique was a driving force behind his decision to become a small business owner 11 years ago. 

“I wanted to carve my own path and work for myself, seeking a sense of purpose that I couldn't find while working for someone else,” Dharmesh said. 

“I noticed a gap in the market where entertainment and specialty coffee could intersect.” 

“While bars often combine arcade games with alcohol, there was a distinct lack of spaces where people could enjoy high-quality coffee in an alcohol-free space, while engaging in gaming.” 

Dharmesh believes that gaming can serve as a universal connection between people. Just the mention of Pac-Man, for instance, creates recognition and nostalgia across generations, even among those who haven’t played the game. 

Forging a community 

With numerous other coffee outlets in the Perth CBD, Dharmesh has differentiated his business by creating a niche. 

“Combining a communal aspect with coffee felt like a natural way to build a vibrant community place,” Dharmesh said. 

“In addition to the arcade games we also offer in-house roasted coffee which ensures exceptional quality and freshness, setting us apart from other outlets.” 

“And of course, the pay-it-forward idea fosters a sense of community and social responsibility.” 

Dharmesh believes the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner is the ability to navigate, dictate, and create something beautiful from the ground up. 

“It's incredibly fulfilling to see my vision come to life and to build a space where people can connect, relax, and enjoy,” he explained. 

Photo of Dharmesh Patel, owner of Game City Espresso, putting through an order in his coffee shop.
The freedom to innovate and create something unique was a driving force behind Dharmesh Patel's decision to become a small business owner.

The SBDC can help you avoid common pitfalls 

Dharmesh said the SBDC has been instrumental in providing business counselling and resources to help him navigate the complexities of running a business. 

“I reached out for their expertise in developing a solid business plan, understanding financial management, marketing strategies and lease agreement guidance,” he said. 

“Their advice has been invaluable in helping me to make informed decisions and avoid common business mistakes.” 

Cheapest may not be the best 

Dharmesh believes one of the biggest lessons he has learned in business is that some things are too good to be true. 

“Everything that glitters isn’t always gold, which in my case, was not realising the dangers of borrowing money from an untrustworthy source,” he warned. 

“The experience taught me the importance of financial prudence and the need to thoroughly vet any potential lenders.” 

“The advice I would give to others is it’s crucial to stay true to your vision and not be swayed by short-term gains or pressures.” 

Dharmesh also advises others to always prioritise quality and authenticity, and to not be afraid to innovate and adapt as the business grows. 

“Foster a strong community around your business, as this will be your greatest support system,” he advised. 

“The path of entrepreneurship is demanding, but the rewards of seeing your vision come to life are immeasurable.” 

Leaving a legacy for the future 

In addition to his future business plans of ensuring the business runs smoothly and sustainably, Dharmesh is keen to find a successor who can continue his legacy and uphold Game City Espresso’s community values and community spirit. 

“Expanding the venue’s community initiatives and possibly opening new locations are also on the horizon,” he concluded. 

More information 

For more information on the support that assisted Dharmesh’s business, and other WA businesses, see the following information.

You can also book your own free advisory appointment with the SBDC. 

Meet Dharmesh and hear more of his story in our 40th anniversary video.

Dharmesh Patel, owner of Game City Espresso, is one of three business owners sharing their experience in business, and with the SBDC, as part of our 40th anniversary video.

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Small business stories
31 May 2024