*. Tait Burge, owner of Swimsuit Coffee, expands his business to Wellington. Video / Drive-thru
Swimsuit Coffee owner Tait Burge is swimming against the tide of cafe closures and has expanded his business from Wellington’s central city to the suburbs.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not stopped the 27-year-old from pursuing his goal of opening three sites by the time he’s 30.
Swimsuit Coffee on Dixon St in the city was open for 10 months before Covid-19 first arrived in the country in 2020.
At the end of last year Burge opened his second cafe in Miramar with business partner William Bridewell-Roberts, also 27, just weeks before Omicron knocked on the door. Burge admitted that the timing of the Park Rd site’s opening was not ideal.
“It was one of those situations where we wouldn’t have another opportunity to do anything here if we didn’t act.
” We thought that if people work from home, we would go to them. “
Burge resides in Seatoun, a neighboring suburb. He has always wanted to open an eastern suburbs cafe. Burge stated that the site is the only one in Miramar with a stand-alone structure facing the morning sun. He had a gut feeling that it would work and so he did it.
With the help of some talented friends, Burge completed the cafe’s fitout within 27 days, on top of his normal hours at the cafe in town. It was a relentless task and you had to laugh about it. Otherwise you’ll get tired and burnt out. “
Burge said because he was still quite young, he got itchy feet and wanted to keep moving the business along.
” We are not letting Covid hold us back or slow us down, even though there have been many hiccups. “
In some cases, the pandemic has helped businesses make better business decisions. For example, Burge wanted to launch an iced beverage range when only two sites were operational.
Instead, the range launched in winter when only the CBD site was available to generate another revenue stream.
It ended up being a success with about 200 bottles flying out the door weekly. Managing a cafe in the middle the Omicron wave and juggling an existing business was not easy.
Burke has had his “failures”, but he’s learned to look at each challenge as a learning opportunity. Burge also valued the support of other industry players and encouraged them to have a conversation with him.
Burge said this year has been the toughest yet for hospitality and it was upsetting to see other businesses close their doors. It will be interesting to see how the city’s culture recovers. I don’t think many people realize the importance of hospitality in creating a positive atmosphere.
“Especially one like Wellington where we’re known for really good coffee and food. What’s the chance of it leaving if all the good ones have gone? “
The pandemic was described by Burge as a wild ride.
The cafe in Miramar is doing well, though the level of business can fluctuate from day to day.
Although the cafe has been quiet, there are signs of life returning. Burge stated that Saturdays were the most crazy.
” I think it’s because everyone works at home so it’s switched and everyone wants a weekend in town.
” When we have a great Saturday, I feel like the vibes are there and people want it. But, it’s just a matter of waiting. “
At age 27, there’s plenty of time for Burge to achieve his goal of opening three sites by the time he’s 30.
Burge stated that he has a feeling there will be another Swimsuit this year.