From humble beginnings, Cheslin Grobler started a successful string of coffee shops called Fleet Coffee in the Cape Winelands. This young entrepreneur has gone from barista to coffee shop owner, bringing great local coffee to a corner near you.
Cheslin grew up in the Cape Winelands and called Wellington ‘home’. While at school in Grade 11, Cheslin regularly spent weekends in Simon’s Town. “My mom’s youngest brother was a chef at a restaurant there, and I had to go work with him. I made friends with guys at the navy. Hence where the name Fleet comes from.”
From the age of 17, Cheslin started practising with the navy and fell in love with the discipline and routine. This was not the only physical activity Cheslin was involved in, he also played provincial rugby while at school. After matriculating, Cheslin decided to join the South African navy.
“While working at the navy I wanted to make extra money, and I worked at this coffee shop or restaurant, where I had to fix the coffee machine itself. It’s called Captain Stable. And that’s when I fell in love with coffee.”
After his time in the navy, Cheslin attended Bible school in Wellington. But he was eager to find ways to make money while doing the Lord’s work.
One morning he woke up and went to a coffee shop in Wellington, and asked the manager if he could make some coffee. Then she called the owner to say a guy just walked in and “he’s making beautiful coffees”. Needless to say, he hired Cheslin. Through his work at this coffee shop, he met Ivan Schwartz, who became his partner in this Fleet Coffee endeavour.
Ivan suggested that he and Cheslin start their own coffee company. After a short time in the UK, Cheslin teamed up with Ivan to start Fleet Coffee in 2015. Apart from making great coffee, it is important for Fleet is to create a local coffee shop that uplifts the community.
“The heart of Fleet is to equip guys with the skill so they can create sustainability for themselves. And also, create a coffee culture where baristas are passionate.”
Fleet Coffee had a small beginning. When Cheslin and Ivan started, they were serving coffee out of a truck. KWV Wine Emporium in Paarl saw them and asked them to make coffee at the entrance of the KWV establishment. This went on for three months before the KWV CEO made them an offer to open an official coffee shop in the art gallery to create a space people want to spend time in. This became Fleet’s first base and a hub for local business meetings. The second Fleet cafe was opened in Cheslin own’s hometown, Wellington.
Martin Venter, CEO of Val de Vie, was impressed by the KWV coffee shop and invited Cheslin to open his space on the estate between Paarl and Franschhoek. This rustic decored cafe has now been operating at Val de Vie for six months and going strong. In fact, Fleet opened up another branch in Century City in the business building in the middle July. The brand is going from strength to strength, now boasting four coffee shops in just three years.
Apart from having a range of coffee shops in the Cape, Fleet Coffee also has a mobile coffee stand and caters for events, festivals and weddings. So for a taste of something locally brewed, roasted in the Winelands and made proudly in South Africa, pop by one of the many Fleet Coffee cafe’s and treat yourself to Cheslin’s home-made roasted, and a conversation.