Story of STIX: Melbourne's Dessert on a Stick
16 June, 2020
Successful businesses tend to be built from sound planning and calculated resourcing. In this regard, Stix is a non-conforming exception, more so a product of spontaneity and two whimsical minds. Lisa and Huss, the co-owners of Melbourne’s street food brand Stix began trading their desserts in 2017, in what they describe as “the most unplanned and unorganised opening ever”. The setup at day one was “the basic of all basic, a fold out Marquee from Costco and benches on wheels”.
Lisa and Huss are both of Middle Eastern heritage. Huss born in Lebanon, Lisa a Melbourne native. They met whilst working at a local bakery. Lisa was studying criminology, while Huss was a qualified engineer, and together they had a bold idea – take the desserts people love, and put them on sticks. Any hints of Stix being founded on a gimmick are quashed by the undeniable pragmatism of the food. No matter the location, Stix was born with an identity grounded in a street food style – the desserts were never intended to be eaten sitting down, and are premised of serving cheesecake, waffles and other decadent treats on a stick, in a street food is patently logical.
“The days were extremely long and we found ourselves doubting everything, and we considered returning to our normal jobs”
After four years of trade, Stix had grown exponentially, and well beyond even the most optimistic expectations of its owners. “We have popped up in the biggest shopping centres, attended hundreds of festivals, some of them interstate. We have been featured on blogs and pages we only dreamt of and collaborated with businesses we thought we would never be more than a customer to”. However, the journey was not without its hardships, and the early days were very much a lesson in resilience. “We sat there for weeks on end with zero sales. We were both still working at the bakery alongside our studies. The days were extremely long and we found ourselves doubting everything, and we considered returning to our normal jobs.”
The idea was novel, and the execution was sound, but Stix was badly in need of some exposure. “I reached out to Urban List with an enquiry about what it would cost to be featured on their page. They asked what my product was and once I shared that, within a few days, they sent down photographers and videographers to create some content. I was so shocked, but their reaction fed our motivation and made us realise we were actually onto something.” The Urban List article ignited a flurry of media interest, and the duo were contacted by radio stations Fox FM and Nova, the Herald Sun and a plethora of notable food bloggers. A short video posted by Fox FM on their social media drew millions of views. “I remember we were out that day and Huss said, “I think we should prepare for tonight”, I looked at him funny and said “we’ll be fine, everyone isn’t going to just come straight away”. The reality was drastically different, as Melburnians came in droves in what was a chaotic affirmation that there was indeed a demand for Stix.
“Our cultures are all about gatherings, very large gatherings. So being able to gather people, and see the excitement around something we have created is extremely heart-warming and rewarding"
The Middle-Eastern heritage of Stix owners contributes much to its personality. “Our cultures are all about gatherings, very large gatherings. So being able to gather people, and see the excitement around something we have created is extremely heart-warming and rewarding.” The experience of Stix draws on the visual as much as the culinary, “Each time we create a flavour or a menu item, we don’t just focus on the flavour, but the presentation too. I know that I myself eat with my eyes first. If I like the look of something, I’ll take that next step to taste it.” Fan favourites included the Caramel Biscotti Waffle, Nutella and Strawberry Cheesecake and the Kinder Bueno Cheesecake.
Stix has established a fiercely loyal Melbourne following, but for the most part remains a two person effort, “we work the hours, run the social media, buy the stock and employ the staff. There is no one else behind the scenes, but we love it this way. It has made the journey so much more special.” With the restrictions put in place in response to COVID-19 tapering off, Stix in in the process of opening a second addition to its Coburg outlet, at the Grazeland development in Melbourne’s western suburb of Spotswood.
Photography: Issac Martin of @issac_eatsalot
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