Rebecca Algie loves diving off Wellington’s southern coast whenever she has the chance, but it was taking on the Bridge Café near the Manawatu Gorge that the former scuba instructor says she threw herself in the deep end.
“I never really imagined myself owning it,” she says. “But when my grandmother saw it as a great opportunity and pushed me to buy it, I thought ‘why don’t I just give it a go and see if it works?’”
Like her parents, Rebecca grew up in Balance, on the eastern side of the Manawatu Gorge, and after an OE that included18 months in the UK and a year in Australia, came back to be closer to them. She says her family is close-knit, and aside from one brother in Dunedin, her other relatives all live close.
The business side of operations was new to Rebecca, but has become the part she says she enjoys the most.
She has a keen eye for style and design, and the Bridge Café reflects this. Hessian coffee sacks adorn the walls, vintage artwork creates discussion and the small touches make the atmosphere cozy and unique.
“My hobby is going around cafes and getting ideas. I’m creative and decided to have a crack at it. I’m no different from anybody else though. Anyone could do this if they just applied themselves and wanted it enough.”
The café’s greatest challenge came in 2011, not long after Rebecca purchased the business, when the Manawatu Gorge was closed due to a major slip. In the ensuing months, it traded only during weekends before closing altogether until the Gorge reopened.
“We tried to keep going by trading in weekends, especially for the staff. But in the end it just wasn’t feasible,” she says. “We’ve been lucky to have such great support and to have opened again, re-establishing a place that, I think, is pretty special.”
In summer, Friday’s Pizza nights are a huge hit, with an outdoor, pizza oven the main attraction.
Rebecca is a foodie by nature, and while she has a strong influence on the menu, her Chef takes the reins and creates interesting, hearty dishes. The menu uses local produce and product wherever possible.
A quirky attention to detail that includes tea served in a vintage tea pot complete with a hand-knitted cozy, and Milk shakes served in a genuine glass milk bottle keeps locals and visitors drawn to a place close to Rebecca’s heart.