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Just the beginning

The crew at Zephyr Wainui sat down with Gisborne Herald reporter Jack Malcolm to share their journey of creating a space for the community while staying true to their values of making a better world.

FROM humble hole-in-the-wall beginnings, Zephyr Wainui has made it through the slower winter months and is starting to emerge as a thriving community space ahead of this summer.

Co-owners Angus Maindonald, Tiago Kerber, Jacob Kohn and Ellen Taylor say they are only just getting started on their journey of building a business that values and strives to create positive change in the world.

They opened the cafe and grocer offering only plant-based food, with a kaupapa to create a space that's good for the environment, for personal health and for the community.

You won't find big-name brands on the shelves or in the warmers and fridges. In their place are healthier alternatives that are better for the planet.

“We might be missing out, but what's the real cost (to people and their health),” said Ellen.

“It's super fulfilling to see how people change to healthier options.”

During market research before they opened, the group spoke to several people within the industry who expressed doubts about the viability of the idea, said Tiago.

“It was new and risky. We had a lot of people questioning us.

“But this is what we believe in and these are our values.

“We knew it would be a big risk but we wanted to stick to our values.”

The group said it had been rewarding to have stayed true to their ideals while seeing the space flourish as a community hub.

“It's nice to be able to go to a place where people are having friendly conversations and it's warm and friendly,” said Angus.

He said it was flattering how people appreciated and used their space as they continued to grow, with additions to the store still being made regularly.

“We make the foundations, but the people who come are the structure of the place.”

As part of growing their community space, Zephyr Wainui regularly holds events for the locals.

Recent live performances from local band Set Waves on the lawn and second-hand clothing markets are just some of the ways they plan to continue engaging with the community.

Next Saturday, they are part of hosting a clean-up of Wainui Beach, starting from 4pm and with food, drinks and music available from 6pm at Zephyr.

The clean-up is a way for people to give back to the places that give them joy, Angus says. As a collective, they spend so much time at the beach that it made sense to help care for it too.

The clean-up is the first of what they hope will become a regular event.

All their events are about creating, strengthening and maintaining connections within the community, he says.

“It's nice to see people be present, get out there and getting a bit of a buzz off of it.”

Tiago said they were proud to have made a space that people found value in, joking that they were 11 months old and had just started walking.

“It was just a window (at the start). We're still very much in the start-up phase — we have lots of plans.”

Their first priority is continuing to grow the positive footprint of the Wainui store in the community.

It had been “astounding” to see the change in people's attitude to alternative food options since the business opened last year, Angust said.

The industry had taken a massive step forward in recent years, and he felt fortunate they saw the trend and made a move on it.

“At the start, no cows' milk was a bit shocking. People are way more accepting now.

“We now have diehard oat milk fans who were regular milk drinkers their whole life.”

Angus said it had been rewarding to watch people discover that plant-based foods were no longer an “ugly stepsister” but a “beautiful alternative” to traditional food options.

They want to increase the accessibility of plant-based nutrition, saying it's not just a niche lifestyle any more.

A key to that is showing people how easy it can be to make nutritious and tasty food with easy-to-follow recipes.

Each of the part-owners said they had personally seen big changes in their lifestyle and health by changing their diet, while also helping to care for the environment.

They started the business as a way to share and achieve their ambitions and goals to make a cleaner, greener Wainui — and along the way have created a strong community of like-minded people.

“We just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supports us. We're so grateful, humbled and flattered by people who appreciate what we're doing,” Angus said.

SERVICE PORTAL: Part-owner Tiago Kerber serves customers through Zephyr's hole-in-the-wall counter, which they only offered coffee and smoothies through when first opening 11 months ago.
ARTISTIC TOUCHES: The storefront and surroundings of Zephyr Wainui were painted by local artists. Pictures by Ellen Taylor
INCREASING CONNECTION: Zephyr second-hand clothing markets are one way the Zephyr crew want to increase community connection — the day coming together after noticing several regular customers were looking to give new life to their old clothes.