Some know him as an affluent entrepreneur, some as a visionary leader and some others, as the “Father of Modern Sri Lankan Boxing”. What he is lesser known for, is for his true passions – art and a good cup of coffee. Dian Gomes is the mastermind behind the arty street of Stratford Avenue – with his very own Gandhara Emporium providing space to budding young artisans to display their wares. The art street also houses Cafe Mocha which in itself is a great compliment to the creative haven. Tne Gandhara promenade draws crowds of various groups – especially undergraduates varying from ages of 18 – 30 and businessmen who take meetings out of the boardroom. Cafe Mocha being one of the largest cafes in Sri Lanka plays a huge role as the ideal venue for group study sessions or business meetings.
Dian Gomes is currently the Chairman of Hela Clothing which functions in Kenya and Mexico apart from Sri Lanka with over 15,000 employees. He is also the President of the National Boxing Association and was a Sri Lanka Junior Flyweight champion boxer in his time. However, a little known fact is that Dian fell in love with art at a very young age. “At the age of 9, one of my drawings was displayed at the Youth Art Festival in the Royal Albert Hall in London”, reminisces Dian of an incredible feat.
Unfortunately, he was discouraged from pursuing these interests but is reliving it now as an art collector and through Gandhara and Stratford Avenue. “Stratford Avenue has great potential, especially because of its tree line, cleanliness and especially, uniformity in terms of concept. You get specialist streets all over the world. Even in Sri Lanka, you get streets specializing in ceramics, and car retail shops. It is with this in mind and my passion for art that we began conceptualizing Stratford Avenue”, he said.
“From its inception, this concept has received tremendous response and granted a platform for many young entrepreneurs. Many inquire about exhibiting or retail space within the area, but the selection is done only in line with the concept”, Dian added.
Cafe Mocha by Barista with walls adorned with old photographs and images of icons such as John Lennon, Che Guerra and Audrey Hepburn, has been at Stratford Avenue from the inception. Initially granted the space within the Gandhara compound, which was Dian’s colonial ancestral home converted into a lifestyle concept store Café Mocha soon became overwhelmed with the footfall and moved to its present more exciting space with two floors. “Cafe Mocha is a one-of-a-kind cafe that has created for itself, a fantastic image and name while keeping the price competitive thus helping it to prosper”, says Dian of one of his favourite places in the city.
Set in a rustic themed building, Cafe Mocha’s unique ambience and atmosphere is its selling point. “My favorite item on the Cafe Mocha menu is the cappuccinos. More than that, I love how the place, with its unflustered walls and historical touch gives a relaxing feel amongst the comfy leather couches and jazzy music.”
The cafe culture in Sri Lanka is growing at a very rapid space. More and more people look to cafes to meet with friends and family and sometimes even work alone. Most Sri Lankan cafe-goers are loyal to their coffee shop of their liking and flock to the place on a frequent basis. Cafe Mocha ensures that there’s good enough reason for people of all ages and backgrounds to keep coming back, for the sense of comfort, high quality coffee, friendly service and delicious food.