Annette Meyer may be a familiar face to people who go to the Isel Twilight Market or Kirby Lane. She’s the lady who sold delicious, homemade cheesecakes, bagels and treats from her tiny Just Be Food & Drinks caravan.
When I wrote about her in 2019 I told you that she came to New Zealand from Switzerland. She came here to “milk cows and experience the Kiwi way of life” for the first time in 2005. She was so entranced with this country she came back a few years later and is still here. Her journey in New Zealand has taken her from the farm life to her food caravan business all the way to a little piece of paradise in Cable Bay at the Cable Bay Café.
Annette told me that about three years ago “I knocked on the previous owner’s door and said if you want to sell let me know because I would be keen to consider buying it. I didn’t hear anything from Mandy until Easter this year when she turned up at my food cart and asked me if I wanted to buy the Café.”
Annette and her partner Ed Briem bought the café business in June but “my mum passed away at the same time, so we went back to Europe for a couple of months to be with family. We got back in September to a closed Cable Bay Road.”
Ed says “When we were in Europe it was 40 degrees every day while Nelson was in flood conditions. We stayed in touch with news reports but didn’t know what we would come home to. The campground beside us had a bit of damage, a slip went through it and there’s still some damage on the road at the entrance to the camp.
“The camp has new owners and we work really well together, while we had just bought the café and had some work to do getting it ready to open they were able to clean up and open for labour weekend.”
The couple set about fully renovating the café. Annette says “we spent a lot of time cleaning and painting, we put in a new coffee machine, a new bar and more seating. We also have some little mementos in the café from my mum’s, this place is my mum’s last gift to me, it’s like it was meant to be.
“My mum being unwell for some time and then passing away reminded us we need to enjoy everything, seize the day and don’t take anything for granted. This is a special place and we are determined to enjoy being here. We could work seven days a week but working harder and being open seven days doesn’t always mean making more money.
“It’s about how we work, we work hard for five days a week and make sure we take time to enjoy life too so we have plenty of energy to make sure we have the passion to provide a great experience. If you’ve had a chance to relax you can put everything into making great food and providing a wonderful experience for customers.
“We decided to close on Monday and Tuesday so we can do the back-office stuff and have some time to refresh. It’s not just how much money is in the bank account, a high turnover doesn’t always translate into success.”
Ed is a co-owner owner of League of Brewers, a homebrew shop in Tahunanui and also works as a IT developer and programmer. “I have a little back office at Cable Bay Café where I can do a lot of my work as well as training staff and working in the café.” Ed is a coffee geek so is passionate about making and serving excellent coffee, and as you can imagine, because he is into brewing, the café now has a very small bar where they serve local beers.
In fact, they use as many local producers as possible. Annette says “local suppliers have been incredibly supportive. We get all our organic produce from Ferretti growers, all our dairy products come from the Junction (Little River and Thorvald cheeses, yogurts and cream), A2 milk from Oaklands and our gelato comes from Gelato Roma that is also under new ownership.”
I wanted to know why they wanted to take on a café in Cable Bay, “it’s just in a beautiful location, we are really a beachside café and a wonderful place to have a business. It’s not far from town and even though there are a couple of spots on the road that still need repairing it easy to get to.”
Being a beachside café they decided not to take any bookings, cater to large groups or host functions. “We want to build the business as a café so our focus is making sure people can rely on us being open, the last thing diners want is to drive out here and find closed doors.
“If you turn up and we’re full just go for a walk on the beach for half an hour, come back and we’re likely to have a table for you, or maybe sit on a blanket under a tree and treat it like you’re having a picnic, just in our café.
“Our locals are also loving the fact we’re open five days from 9.30am until 3pm Wednesday to Friday and 10am until 4pm at the weekend, they just drop in for coffee, a beer, wine and something freshly homemade to eat.”
At the Cable Bay Café Annette makes everything in-house, including her famous bagels and most of the delicious treats she sold from her caravan are on the extended menu or in the cabinet for instant service. The caravan will also make an appearance over the summer as a place to buy a takeaway coffee and ice cream to enjoy on the beach.
Check out the bright and friendly refurbished Cable Bay Café, it is such a delightful space with great service and delicious food, you won’t be disappointed.