When Sarah Baldwin, Jarrod Applebee and Shane Phillips finally peeled the plastic off the windows of the Nug General Store and stood back to look at what they had created, they cried.
“That was kinda cute,” Baldwin laughs. “We were very, very proud.”
“It was the first time we could see what other people would see when they were coming up the lane,” Applebee says. “It was a really cool time for us. Even now, walking in every day, you just have to look at that nice little warm place at the end of the driveway.
You can understand the emotion. Nug General Store opens its doors this Sunday, more or less exactly as the trio envisioned. The former Cakes & Shit premises at the Bakery Lane end of Fortitude Valley have been refurbished with wood, tile and crazy cobblestone floors to create space for pantry staples and fancy household items curated by Applebee and Phillips, who own Finnley Home in California Lane. Nug also offers a rotating menu of sandwiches and salads prepared by Baldwin, best known for his famous restaurant Joy.
It’s a place that comes from the heart – a reaction to the pandemic and our collective rediscovery of entertaining others in our own homes over the past two years.
“People had to learn to do a lot more at home,” says Applebee. “But rather than being a chore, once people could have other people, they thought, ‘I’m sick, I can cook for other people than myself. … We can now convey all of this.
Nug is neatly divided into two small pieces. The first has a counter with a display case filled with cakes, fresh fruit and more, while the second is dominated by a large communal table for those who want to stop and eat. Everywhere, wooden shelves are stocked with locally made pasta, rice, oils, passata and everything in between. There’s Cuttaway Creek Marmalade, Quinby’s Chilli Honey, Olsson’s Sea Salt Products, Wallaby Spring Water, Vera’s Non-Alcoholic Appetizers, Mount Zero Olives and Danny’s Bread Bread. For housewares, Nug offers serving boards from The Wood People, candles from Black Blaze, and stainless steel vases from Urban Eden, among many other items.
For food, Baldwin uses a simple kitchen at the back of the room to prepare a menu of five sandwiches, supported by a rotating selection of salads. The sangas will change every two weeks, but expect creations such as lamb with bell pepper, prawns and crisp lettuce, and a vegan tofu number served over fresh ciabatta. The food at Nug is Baldwin’s opportunity to detach from the more structured service at Joy, which sits next door.
“There are no recipes here,” she says. “I’m a little more attached to the way things are done on the side, like I should be, whereas here Jarrod can just step in and help chop some potatoes. It’s so much more laid back, so much more about feeling and so much less about control. Just make it delicious.
Otherwise, Nug is a neighborhood hangout for valley dwellers, or those looking to quickly stop and shop for the perfect at-home event. Walk through the door (complete with a ring of its charming doorbell) and simply grab a few pantry essentials or household items, or stick around for a sandwich and a Semipro coffee brewed by Moccamaster. It’s yours.
Going forward, Nug will introduce wine once Baldwin, Applebee and Phillips have obtained liquor licenses, and regular workshops are also in the works.
“Even Arthur [Apostolos, Nug’s landlord] told us, “That was the right thing to do at the end of the driveway,” says Applebee. “Because it just helps to supplement. It’s food but it’s also a way of life. It’s all that has been scattered in the alleys of the valley, but in the same place. It’s not too pretentious or trying to be something it’s not. It’s just us.
Nug General Store opens this Sunday, May 29.
Nug General Store
Bakery Lane, 6909 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley
Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.