Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Chocolate Fish Café

I admire creative people, especially those who take an idea or concept and develop it into a business. Various challenges are presented along the way, and many find creative ways around them.

I have just been to the Chocolate Fish Café in Shelly Bay. The popular café closed down on its original Scorching Bay site at the end of 2007 amid much fuss about rising rental costs, effectively forcing them out of business. Chocolate Fish closed its doors, and Scorchorama took its place. The story polarised the café-going public: many were sympathetic to the plight of Chocolate Fish, and Facebook groups popped up around the place, while others saw it as a case of sour grapes.

Now, Chocolate Fish is back. Approached by the Wellington City Council to open a café on the site that has until recently been owned by the New Zealand Defence Force, some serious problem solving was required. First of all, there were a number of restrictions to get around. In particular, there could be no dishwasher, there was to be no kitchen on site, and no preparation area. The solution? Coffee is served in biodegradable takeaway cups, counter food is prepared at their sister business, Chocolate Frog Café in the Miramar Palmers Garden Centre, and an outdoor gas barbeque area allows fresh seafood to be cooked without the need for a kitchen. Patrons are encouraged to "bring your own coffee vessel", and can even take home used coffee grinds for their compost bins free of charge!

It's this kind of creativity that I especially admire. The Shelly Bay community is growing as an artsy/creative-type destination for up and coming businesses. Various art studios dot the area. The guys I met for coffee have set up a printing and sign writing business in a nearby garage. They introduced me to Chocolate Fish's co-owner; they helped out with his sign writing and printing, and he returns the favour by providing endless coffees and a "meeting room" for them. Across the road is a company which creates props and floats for parades and regional events. Apparently they are going to build a castle to create a children's play area for the café.

I will watch Chocolate Fish's moves with interest. Apparently in their first four days of trading they generated the amount of business they had hoped for in a week, so things look promising. As I continue to contemplate my next career move in tough financial times, I'm inspired to see others taking an idea, expanding it and developing it into their own business.


La'Tonya Richardson said...

The Chocolate Frog... what an interesting name! I think what they're doing is awesome!

As times and the economy change, being creative in what and how we do things will help us to survive!

Sab said...

Very interesting! I agree, the Chocolate Frog (and Fish) is an interesting name indeed. But I love how they are being so creative in getting around their obstacles!