Kenn Blackman's enthusiasm for new ideas has not diminished in his seven years of running a cafe in Newcastle's East End.
The owner of Xtraction Espresso, on the corner of Bolton and King streets, he recently began selling Brooklyn Boy bagels, the latest addition to his versatile "street menu" that frequently changes.
When Blackman launched his business, it was a hole-in-wall trading area on Bolton Street. But piece by piece, Blackman put his stamp on it, from his cheery welcome, to a serving window on the street.
The Newcastle Herald and its hundreds of staff were two doors away, the bustling Newcastle law courts were a block away. The police station nearby. And they came.
Coffee was his forte - he learned the trade under Sasa Setric in Canberra. Setric, known as The Coffee Man, won the World Barista Competition in 2015.
Blackman won customers in a competitive cafe neighbourhood on the strength of his excellent blends.
Eventually, he expanded, taking over the corner location immediately next store to him. All the while, he has maintained his strong coffee trade but greatly expanded his food offering.
He always had the fresh baked muffins and caramel slices created by his partner, Vicky, who has always backed his business.
"Without her, I wouldn't be here. That's the biggest thing. It's something I get emotional about," Blackman says. "She's stuck by me through the madness."
But the menu kept growing.
"it's one of those things, coffee and food go together," Blackman says. "You pair them up.
"Just like a good wine and chocolate. We tried to have something a little different to what was out there at other cafes, and I think we really started to show we've got something worth coming and trying here at Xtraction."
When the corner shop on Bolton and King finally became vacant, Blackman made a major move to expand into the space.
He has taken his time, and made a significant investment. His vision has resulted in creating one of the coolest, urban windowscapes in Newcastle, with customers able to sit at waist-high benches that offer an eye-level street view of the busy sloping intersection of pedestrians as well as vehicles. Crane your head and you can even see the ocean at the east end of King Street.
And the menu has continued to evolve - tossing up offerings like breaky tacos, pulled pork bao, halloumi burgers, Reuben toasties, teriyaki chicken, beef and bacon burgers, peri chicken burgers.
Blackman estimates 80 to 85 per cent of his clientele buy coffee and food. "That might be as small as a slice, to breaky tacos, or one of our toasties or burritos that we do," he says.
"We are trying to do more of a street food thing. It's quick grab-go, but very tasty, very in-your-face with flavour."
Xtraction has built a loyal clientele, bit by bit. While the menu keeps adding excitement, it is the consistency of the offer that keeps old customers returning and new ones coming to discover the buzz.
"We open at 5.30. I'm up at 3, here at 4.30, we start prepping fresh food every day," Blackman says. "We try and make sure there is something out for the punters to grab, especially the tradies and the people who work further afield. We get a good crowd in the morning, we have a phone app so it's easy for them to come in and take it, come past, almost like a drive through."
Adding the Brooklyn Boy bagels was a "no brainer" for Blackman. Made by New Yorker Michael Shafran at his Marrickville bakery in Sydney, they are the real thing.
"They are very authentic, New York style. All boiled, handmade," Blackman says. "Fresh, creamy. Soft on inside, crunchy on the outside. And you can have a nice 'schmeer' on the inside of whatever you fancy, something hot for me, a little bit spicy."
Blackman is carrying plain, onion, blueberry, pumpkin, 'everything', and a range of the gluten-free line. And he's making his own 'schmeers', like jalapeno and cream cheese, and salmon,dill and cream cheese.
Blackman has also taken on distribution of the bagels. They are available at Sherwood Coffee Bar in Parry Street, Onyx in Mayfield and Baba Yaga on Darby Street.