A café built on art: Olly's co-founder on how caffeine and art complement each other

It's hard jostling for attention in Auckland's crowded café scene, but Olly's co-founders have come up with the perfect trio to woo visitors to their store: Coffee, donuts and art. 

The original idea for Olly, a part-time café, part-time art gallery in Auckland’s Mount Eden, came forth from founders Bryan Anderson, Chlöe Swarbrick and Alex Bartley Catt in early 2016 and was up and running by December 2016. The fit-out for this little hub, filled to the brim with sugar and caffeine, was built by these talented individuals’ very own hands, which has helped to create an organic atmosphere.

Although all three founders possess serious entrepreneurial talents, Swarbrick is the only one who has been involved in politics. In 2016, Swarbrick ran in the 2016 Auckland mayoral election, gaining third place with close to 30,000 votes. After being approached by several parties, she chose to join the Green Party.

We spoke to Anderson, who was happy to give us some insight into a store that binds Auckland’s café culture with modern art.

Once you had the idea of what you wanted to do with your store, how long did it take to get it up and running and fully established?

It took us the better part of five months to finally open our doors. Walls, plumbing and a full refurbishment of our space were necessary. At the same time the three of us were all working on other projects and our full time jobs.

Do you think that you are appealing to a wider variety of people by combining art/retail and coffee?

We would like to think so. We want to create a space with no boundaries for people of all ages and who come from all walks of life. We want to appeal to anybody who shares the same ambitions of us. We think the mixture of art, coffee and donuts is attracting a wider variety of audiences. More so than just a coffee shop or art gallery by itself. We love that.
 

In terms of the café, do you think that the coffee and donuts are what had brought in the most people? Or do you think that the art is what attracts the bigger audiences?

People travel for all three aspects of what we do at Olly, but rather than either of them being the dominant driving force, we believe it’s the experience of all three aspects together that drives our sales.

Is there a big market for art in Auckland?

There is a huge market for art in Auckland and it is only growing. More and more creative individuals are emerging, and producing world class work from our own backyard. We think the Auckland art scene is in a great place and only getting better.

Is Auckland the place to be for Olly or other part-time art stores?

Auckland is definitely the place for Olly. What we are doing is uncommon at this stage, but has been really well received by the public. We are happy and proud to call Auckland our home and the birth place of Olly.

Are there many other part-time cafes/part-time retailers in Auckland or would you consider yourself a one of a kind business?

There are similar retailers, such as coffee stores that also produce vinyl records etc, but we are one of a kind in that we aim to promote young artists and creative’s, while serving up speciality coffee and artisan donuts. We are very niche in that respect.

Has your business been affected at all by the wildly popular café culture in Auckland and the fact that there are constantly new cafes and spots to try out?

For our business these implications don’t have too much of an impact on us due to the fact that our art changes monthly with new exhibition instalments. We also aim to be constantly mixing up our donut flavours so that there is always something fresh to keep people coming back.

In terms of future customer engagement, where do you see Olly heading in the next 5 years?

We aim to be a hub for young and emerging artists of all kinds, as well as pushing the boundaries of our niche. We aim for there to always be a fresh instalment in a multitude of areas at Olly. All of the art we have is for sale, and we have 12 different exhibitions a year where a multitude of work and different art forms will be available for purchase.

Future plans for this cultural hub involve opening up shared office spaces upstairs, complete with caffeine fix costs built into the fee.

This story was originally published on The Register.