PETALING JAYA, Aug 16 — I’m listening to Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs when I walk into the barbershop. Oven Cuttery is the sort of place where your barber is likely to share your taste in music and possibly recommend you new songs.
I’ve been coming here for years now, since owner Kevin Cottie Tan started Oven Cuttery in 2016. Things have changed over time: Tan has gone from renting a smaller space at the back of the shophouse in Damansara Utama, PJ to taking over the entire space, now reframed under the minimalist moniker of Lot 21 (it’s the unit number).
There used to be folks selling artisanal doughnuts; later a florist offering fresh blooms and bespoke bouquets. These come and go; the pandemic years and lockdowns weren’t easy on businesses.
Things are looking up these days as a new café has moved into Lot 21, to ensure customers waiting for their haircuts can chill out with coffee and an eclectic (but assuredly impressive) playlist.
Kendrick Gan opened Ellipsis as he felt ready for a full-time career in coffee.
Ellipsis is run by 25-year-old Kendrick Gan who had a circuitous route to his career as a barista.
He recalls, "I started working part time at a café in Kepong called Posh under the guidance of Amin. At that point, I was just a caffeine addicted college student looking for extra income and I thought the idea of doing coffee was pretty cool.”
Shortly thereafter, Gan joined One Half where he would stay on for the next four years. Even then, there was no sure-fire indication that he’d consider coffee as a real calling.
He explains, "I took a break from One Half for six to seven months in 2019 when I started my law degree; it was really hard trying to juggle my class schedules and work at the same time. In that period, I bought an espresso machine and a grinder so that I could do coffee catering for a side income.”
Thus Gan’s entrepreneurial journey commenced: balancing his studies while sourcing catering jobs. One thing he relished about the challenging time: the freedom and flexibility it provided.
Lot 21 in Damansara Utama, PJ now houses Oven Cuttery, a barbershop, and Ellipsis, a café.
Then the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns happened.
Gan says, "All the events that I had lined up were cancelled and I lost my source of income. I texted my ex-boss Jia Le and told him that I needed a job again and he said let’s do it. It was timely because Dou Dou Bake was about to open and I got scheduled to work on the second day of their opening.”
If there is a clear thread in this young barista’s story it’s that of mentors, from the coffee veterans behind Posh to One Half and Dou Dou Bake. But eventually there comes a time where every young Padawan wishes to graduate (where else would we get our Jedi masters, eh?).
For Gan, that meant realising what he initially saw as a source of side income was his real path all along. But without any clear signposts or roadmap, the first step can be terrifying.
Home-baked cookie (left) and a flat white (right).
He shares, "I dropped out of law in my second year and decided to open Ellipsis. I never saw myself working in an office but I also never had a clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life. When I joined coffee in the beginning, I never saw myself doing it full-time, but one thing led to another and here I am today.”
What Ellipsis provides is an opportunity for Lot 21 to become a full fledged community space, where like minded people can gather, whether they’re due for a haircut at Oven Cuttery or not, to enjoy music, conversation and a cuppa.
"I feel like one thing that’s been lost in the craze of starting aesthetically pleasing cafés in recent years is the human connection aspect of coffee. The communal aspect of coffee is what got me hooked into this industry and it’s something both my previous employers really passed down to me.”
It wasn’t entirely starting from scratch: the earlier coffee catering stint meant Gan had all the equipment he needed to open a café. He explains, "Setting up wasn’t hard because I had the most amazing people to help me... Kevin, who runs the barbershop, has been such a great support to me as well as the business.”
Barbershop owner Kevin Cottie Tan has been a great support to Gan when the newbie entrepreneur set up his café.
Currently Ellipsis is offering two types of beans. In one hopper, medium roast Colombian beans by 43Coffee for milk coffee: expect a creamy texture, caramel sweetness with a long chocolatey aftertaste. In the second hopper, single origin Ethiopian beans roasted by Cloudcatcher; this one is packed with floral aromatics with juicy berry flavours.
Gan says, "We rotate our beans for our black coffees bi-monthly, to highlight different roasters. Our next batch of coffees will be Ethiopian coffees from Tongue Mission Coffee Roasters in Penang.”
Ellipsis serves food too, albeit a simple menu featuring home-baked goods such as banana bread, cookies and a lemon loaf. Gan adds, "For something more substantial, we’ve got a grilled cheese sandwich or a pesto ham toastie; the bread baked by a good friend of ours called Snatch Pastries.”
Which, apparently, is all you need to have a good time while waiting for your haircut or even when you’re not scheduled for one. Drop by Lot 21 for the cuts and the coffee, yes, but also join the conversation... and the community.
Grilled cheese sandwich (left) and a long black (right).
Gan sums it up: "You can have the best looking café or brew the best cup of coffee, but people stay because you provide a space that feels like home. Sometimes we just want to talk about what’s going on in our lives. Amin, Keith and Jia Le — my previous employers — taught me this and I really want to recreate that for others.”
Lot 21, Jalan SS 21/34, Damansara Utama, PJ
Open Tue-Fri 8am-5pm, Sat & Sun 10am-7pm (Mon closed)
Tel: 017-200 7792