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It wasn’t so long ago that the Hawkes Bay coffee scene was non-existent. Finding a good coffee was harder than changing a tyre with your hands tied behind your back...
But luckily for the fine residents of the mighty Hawkes Bay, and visitors in town for one of the great attractions, the coffee explosion that has taken New Zealand by storm is rubbing off on the Bay.
The Magic Roast got the chance to smash back some excellent coffee over summer, and have a chat with Matt a bit later on to find out a bit about why he left Australia to come back to the town where he grew up.
“It was time for me to move home. I’d been away from Hawkes Bay for 18-plus years, and it was time to get back to family and back to the community where I grew up.”
Community was a common theme over the course of our chat.
In a close knit community like Haumoana, the sense of community is at its heart, and it’s clear that this runs deep in Matt.
Matt grew up in Haumoana, and in a classic Hawkes Bay twist, actually worked in the building Haumoana Coffee is in, back when it was a fish and chip shop.
“There’s so much history here in Haumoana, and everyone has worked here [over the years] and now I’m hiring the kids of people I went to school with, in my shop. It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to do this in my own town.”
Haumoana Coffee is embracing it’s local roots. The staff are local, so local in fact that the mum of one of the barista's used to be the local bus driver! They are also incorporating local art and artists into the style of the cafe.
Over the years, Haumaona has fallen on some hard times. The old petrol station is gone, as is the diary, and the fish and chip shop has been many things. But Haumoana Coffee is injecting a bit of life back into the place, encouraging people from all over Hawkes Bay to swing by and check it out.
For a new business owner, it would be understandable to launch hard and try and make as much money as they could, quickly, to ensure they are sustainable. But Matt is playing the long game, and setting himself up as being a cornerstone of the community for years to come through his business practices.
“I’m pricing everything pretty reasonably. I don’t want to make a trillion dollars out of it and I don’t want to price out my community. I’m back in my community, I want to make sure it’s something everyone can use and I want kids to feel like they can come in and buy a slice or something.”
The community is embracing Matt as much as he is embracing being back at home and this is most evident over Christmas. On Christmas Day, Matt opened up the cafe…
“I was the only one open in the whole area. Being only four days in, I didnt even think about getting anyone to help me, and I had queues out the door and orders backed up.
“A couple of people saw I needed help and jumped behind the counter to take orders for me. People across the road spotted I was so busy that I didn’t have time for Christmas lunch so they brought me pancakes and strawberries and cream!
“It’s things like that make me think that I've done the right thing.
“It’s pretty humbling to feel part of the community so quickly.”
It’s been a pretty fast ride for Haumoana Coffee. It wasn’t that long ago that Matt was in Australia, where he spent time as a carpenter and builder in the film industry. He’s taken it all in his stride, and applied all the things he’s learnt in business over the years to the coffee business.
“It’s been a bit of a crash course in running a business, but it’s working out - well everyone says it’s working out!”
While only a few months in, Matt has some great tips for people looking to open a new cafe:
Give people a smile! Customer service is the absolute key and where you’ll win people over.
Look after your staff! Pay your people well, treat them well and take care of them, and they will take care of you and your customers.
Consistency between shots and baristas will bring back the customers. People are expecting the same great coffee everyday.
Haumoana Coffee is killing it, making amazing coffee that is worth travelling for. Their philosophy to business, to coffee, and to community should be an inspiration for all cafe owners. The next time you’re in Hawkes Bay, a trip out to Haumos is an absolute must.
A big thanks to Matt for his time, and for his coffee!! It was a blast.