Television weatherman Jim Hickey reckons it will take “a lot of coffees” to make an investment worth “a bit north of $1 million” at Queenstown Airport pay off.
However, in the fortnight Airspresso Cafe has been open, business has already taken off – turning a dream into a reality for Hickey and business partners Craig Macfarlane, Karyn Grant, Justin Bird and Birthe Svendheim, who all own Joe’s Garage in Queenstown.
The cafe had been several years in the planning.
“I came door-knocking [at the airport] three years ago - I could see that we’d love to get our teeth into this place,” Hickey says.
“A year later I got a letter saying the lease has come up and they were calling for expressions of interest>
“It was a big punt and we had to put everything on the line to get in here.”
Airspresso Queenstown is the second of its kind in New Zealand – the original cafe was established at New Plymouth Airport about eight years ago.
The formula was simple – providing “outstanding coffee” with quality food and beverages, wherever possible sourced locally and made on site.
However, what set the Airspresso brand apart from others was its aviation ambience.
At the Queenstown outlet, a four-sided service area is surrounded by aviation stories and artefacts, including large panels documenting aviation pioneers, including Queenstown pilot Jules Tapper, Sir Tim Wallace, Hugh McCaw, a Tempest pilot during World War 2, and Frederick ‘Popeye’ Lucas – one of the first commercial pilots in Wakatipu.
Tables are decorated with aviation magazines, with historical and modern aviation images hung on walls beside deer heads – including one shot by Sir Tim in the 1970s.
Aircraft propellers adorn walls, while a glass cabinet holds a host of aviation artefacts and the floor is painted with runway configurations of Queenstown Airport.
Hickey says timber used in the “contemporary and urban” fit out had come from Christchurch following the 2011 earthquakes. Steel had been fabricated in Central Otago and Southland.
“[We wanted to] use the tapestry of the area in the fit out.
“Tom Glover [of Naylor Love] has been outstanding and treated the artefacts with the deference they deserved.”
The cafe opened for business last month and the reaction had been phenomenal, he says.
“We had one customer services manager from Qantas Australia here. He came up to me … and said ‘I haven’t seen anything like this in Australasia’ … he said it was outstanding.”
Alongside the cafe in the main terminal building, a second Airspresso had opened in the international departure lounge.
Hickey says Airspresso is operating under a six-year lease.