I’d walked past Over Under so many times on Deansgate without ever going in to grab a coffee. It used to be a newsagent and I think it took me a while to realise and remember that it was now a coffee place. I’m glad I finally went in to give it a try.
I went along recently to interview the owner Ed Barry.
After chatting for about 10 minutes, I’d already realised that this guy was like a brother from another mother. Our lives were so similar it was strange.
The only difference was that Ed started his journey by packing up his whole life to go and be a male nanny in New York.
For those that aren’t familiar with the series, I’ve decided to do a take on ‘Humans of New York’ but for people who call Manchester home.
Bee more MCR will try and tell the story of this incredible city and all the people of Manchester, #peopleofmcr, who contribute to it being the fastest growing city in Europe.
So how does this work? I will get each person to tell me their story in their own words of how they got to where they are today. I will share that story along with some photos for context.
Each person featured will then be asked the same question – Why Manchester?
The name of the place comes from Ed's parents, where his Dad’s English and his Mum’s a Kiwi, hence the Over Under name.
After going to University in Dublin for 4 years, he decided to make the move to New York, to take on the role of a nanny for a family connection. In his own admission, he didn’t really know what he wanted to do in life at the time.
By complete chance the guy he was working for was a Hedge Fund Manager in New York. For those of you that don’t know what a Hedge Fund Manager is, essentially it’s the guy at the top of the ladder in an Investment Bank, who looks after a portfolio of money and investments. He is ultimately responsible for the performance of the fund and what the company decides to invest in.
Basically living the dream with his accommodation paid for and looking after 2 kids for 7 days on and 7 days off, Ed had the chance to visit some of New York’s best restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
This was when the light bulb went on.
Watching all of the Americans walking round with gallon jugs of filter coffee always amazed Ed.
So studying economics at University and working for a Hedge Fund Manager, there was only one thing that was about to happen. Ed started work at a small Investment Bank as an Analyst.
Working 18 hours a day in an office, doing a highly analytical technical role, Ed knew that it wasn’t for him. Losing that time outside and the interaction with people, something had to change.
I met Ed for the first time to do the People of MCR interview and he just has one of those infectious personalities. The guy is always smiling and has the time of day for anyone. The fact that he was then going to move to hospitality won’t be a shock to anyone.
Ed then moved back to London and started working for 7 or 8 months in various restaurants, cafes and bars to build up his knowledge and experience. Eventually they opened the first Over Under Coffee in February 2017.
Over Under really is this New York and Kiwi fusion that works really well. It’s a service focused day/night concept. Everything in the Deansgate location at a certain time of day get’s flipped around like something out of Thunderbirds, to reveal the bar concept for the evening. The food menu comes down and the cocktail menu comes out.
Although the concept started in London, Ed has this huge passion for Manchester. He quickly realised that any brand wanting to make a home here, especially one that begins in London, has to treat it like a stand-alone business.
Ed realised that the old quote runs deep in this city. “This is Manchester, we do things differently here”.
Ed and his team have fully taken this on board to the point where they have an Airbnb here for the management team to come up and spend the time required to get this location right for the Manchester community.
Ed works with Assembly Coffee roasters in London to develop the Over Under blend. It’s definitely worth a try. Using a contact who is a Q Grader (essentially a coffee sommelier) Ed and the team made several trips to try and get the single source Columbian to the exact taste that they were looking for.
I ended up chatting to Ed for a long time about entrepreneurship, culture, economics and everything else in between. The one thing I took away from the conversation was the struggle. Ed even admitted in the early days that you can’t help but compare yourself to others, or worry about what friends and family think about you.
For a long time when the business first started, Ed didn’t have enough money to pay himself a salary and he had to find other ways of getting by. I’ve not interviewed a business owner yet that hasn’t been in the same boat.
If it was easy, everyone would create their own path of freedom to do what they want in life. That’s why so many businesses fail or don’t make a profit in their first year. It’s just who has the work ethic, drive and determination to believe in what you're doing, back yourself to not give up and get through to the good times that are eventually around the corner.
When asked why Manchester? Ed talked about the people, “Manchester is just full of super friendly people, you always hear about the stereotypes of when Northerners come down to London and the difference, but coming here you can really notice that. It’s an awesome city, it rains a lot but it’s just full of really cool people.”
I really appreciate Ed sitting down with me for this interview and for the Over Under keep cup! (Always trying to be more environmentally friendly) Make sure you follow Over Under Coffee on social media @overunderco . You can also follow Ed @gossipbarry .