Indoor playground not so crazy after all

Coffee break . . . Anna King is looking forward to spending more time with her family after selling the Harbor Street Collective Cafe. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/ANNA EASTON

When Anna King had a vision for an indoor playground in her new Harbor Street Collective Cafe, her friends and family told her she was crazy.

During a protracted battle to put it all together, she began to wonder if she was. Now, as she says goodbye to coffee after almost seven years, it was all worth it.

“To tell you the truth, it was a bit of a nightmare, but I love it, and I’m proud of it, and proud that it’s here and the kids can use it,” Ms King said.

She decided to bring the cafe to market because she wanted to spend more time with her two young daughters, Charlotte (11) and Grace (6), and after 10 years of being involved in the hospitality scene in Oamaru, she wanted to take a break.

Finding out she was pregnant with her third daughter, Emilia, who is now 7 months old, cemented the decision.

”Probably if Emilia hadn’t come, we would have taken it off the market, because we had no interest, then these guys came out of the blue and fell in love with the coffee, and everything worked out perfectly, really,” she said.

Initially, Ms King was looking for a small space in Harbor St to sell sushi, which was prepared in her Japanese restaurant, Midori – then further north in Ribble St.

She had owned Midori for about three years at this point and saw a “massive market” in the historic district.

When the collective space was presented as an option, even though it was bigger than she had in mind, she had to have it.

”I went there and fell in love with it straight away. I was like ‘Oh my God’; I had this vision of a playground in the middle.

Although everyone thought it was a crazy idea, she got online and started looking.

“I wasn’t going to have a big indoor playground as such, but then I got on Trade Me, and found that there was an indoor playground in a container in Auckland, without no instructions, then I convinced everyone to buy this playground, and it turned into the biggest nightmare ever.”

It took three years to get the playground up and running. She had fought with Waitaki District Council through the consent process, had to put in a new toilet block, and then there was actually the construction of the playground itself.

”That just created a huge headache. But once it was all over, it was amazing.

“Thank God, because I was like, ‘we can’t pull this thing down. I would have just been heartbroken. Because Oamaru really needed it too.

”It’s such a cool place for people to get their kids out of the cold. There is nothing else. Plus you get great coffee and you get delicious food. ”

The decision was made to move Midori to the premises as well, following the first level 4 Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

“We knew if we combined the two it would help Harbor St through the tough times, and it definitely does. It just meant we didn’t have double overhead.

The events at the historic compound have been “incredible” for the business, but the past two years and all the cancellations have been a “real blow”, Ms King said.

”But thank goodness for the locals. Without our regulars and our premises, we would not have been able to get by. . . I mean, we just worked our butts off. We did everything we could.”

She was proud of the fact that she did not have to lose a single member of staff to the challenges Covid presented.

Coffee had been a big part of her family’s life, but now Mrs King was keen to focus on and build on her Thames St FB Body retail store, formerly Nancy’s Lingerie.

She planned to move into the old Tangibles building for more space and had expanded the store’s range to include more than lingerie – branching out into activewear, accessories, merino wool and jewelry made in New Zealand. She also wanted to expand her line of swimwear and made sure to cater to all shapes and sizes.

“I kind of try to hit the middle market,” she said.

“I feel like I want people in Oamaru to be able to go out and shop without having to spend a lot of money. Because, me, I always felt that there was a little need for that.

“I would like the locals to support him and know that now it’s a bit different. ”

Mrs. King also appreciated having more time to spend with her children.

”I can only do a few days a week [in the shop] and it’s so good. I can be a mom and do school stuff, and have a tidy house.”

She was convinced she had left the Collective Cafe in good hands. New owners Andy Beattie and Kat Rivison had moved south from Wellington, and Ms King thought they would fit in well on the street.

”They are really creative people. . . I’ve always been a little weird. You kind of need to be that kind of person on the street. It’s a cool street to be in.”

Harold B. McConnell