Category Archives: Issue 3

Rebecca Algie at work in the Bridge Cafe

Attention to detail is heart of family business

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.

Dog Parking“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.

Open for business after the Gorge slip“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.”

Tea, good for the soulIn 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.

A long way to go

Pulling the extra miles

Jakub Postrzygacz has traversed some of the world’s most dramatic and unforgiving landscapes by bike. He says it’s the physical and mental toughness that helps pull the extra miles.

Ten years ago, Jakub Postrgacz came across a group of journalists that were travelling in a four-wheel-drive convoy across Australia’s Canning Stock Route, the longest off-road trail in the world.

AustraliaHe says he was mesmerised by what he saw, and later completed the first unsupported crossing of the Canning by bike. The experience changed his life.

With a total distance of around 1850 kilometres, the Canning Stock Route is one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs from Halls Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia to Wiluna in the mid-west region.

“I asked one of the journalists I met during an expedition, whether it would be possible to do such trip by bike and he basically just burst out laughing and said forget about it,” Jakub says.

However, Jakub was determined. It took a couple of years working with different companies to develop a bike that could ride in difficult sandy terrain and from there he completed the trip.

“It took 33 days and I lost 18 kilograms, which was a pretty good diet,” he says. “Nothing can really prepare you for such a long journey. Quite often you would ride for the whole day and cover 20 or 30 kilometres and you look at your speedometer and you know there’s another 1500 ahead of you before you finish.”

It’s the fittest people who can suffer the most because their bodies require more oxygen to work the muscles. You can be super fit at sea level but at 4000m above sea level that can change.

Jakub grew up in Poland, and moved to New Zealand eight years ago “for a woman”. His wife Adrianna came here as a child and then moved back to Poland again where she met Jakub in high school. She always wanted to come back and live here, so that’s what they did.

“We decided to do a cycling trip around New Zealand which was about 600km long just to experience the country a bit more. Then we decided that this was the place to be.”

His reason for coming to Palmerston however was business. Having worked with the Avanti cycling company for a number of years, he was asked to open up a new shop in the area.

“They needed someone to look after the existing customers and provide good service and so I ended up here.”

In the store, Jakub’s quite obviously in his element. This is a man for whom cycling is not merely a sport or a hobby. It is a passion. He lives and breathes it.

The whole family is interested in cycling to a certain degree. “All three children have bikes and we have a family bike with the kids on a trailer on the back and my wife on the back behind me.” He says.

While Jakub has been cycling ever since he can remember, his cycling expeditions really began when he was a teenager.

Downhill from here“Back in high school there was a priest who was very much into cycling who was one of the teachers in the school. Together we formed a club that would organise bicycle tours around Poland and later in Europe”

Jakub went to Italy and France – among other places – and says it was his first taste of adventure.

His interest kept growing.

He and his wife travelled around Ireland on bikes they built themselves at a scrap yard just outside of Dublin. The bikes are still intact. “We spoke to our friends last year and they say they are still using those bikes,” he says.

Jakub has taken on challenges that have never been completed before. He was motivated to do more he says “you get hungry and you want to look for more adventure.”

Helping handHe cycled in the Himalayas. It all came about when one of his good friends called him asking for advice regarding going to Tibet. He came back and told his wife about it who said; “You didn’t ask to go with him?”

“So I asked if he needed a logistical supporter and mechanic and he said ‘hell yeah’,” Jakub says.

It was a big call. At the time his daughter was only about three weeks old and they were just starting the new business, but it was too good of an opportunity to give up.

“We put the party together and went through China, and across Tibet to Nepal, through the friendship highway, and the basecamp of Everest. The basecamp was actually closed to visitors due to political tension before the Olympics, so there was a lot of sneaking past checkpoints at night and things like that. Luckily nobody was shot or arrested!”

When your body is pushed to its extreme and out of your comfort zone, it’s no longer a physical exercise but a mental exercise too

The trip took place in 2007. The whole journey took about a month including acclimatization, but consisted of about three weeks riding.

In terms of training Jakub says he was too busy with family and work and had to “pull some extra miles on the trip.” He says the biggest challenge was the altitude.

“It’s the fittest people who can suffer the most because their bodies require more oxygen to work the muscles. You can be super fit at sea level but at 4000m above sea level that can change.”

In taking on these sorts of trips, Jakub has become well-versed in the challenges that come along with them.

Admiring the viewsHe says both long-term endurance and psychological strength are essential. “When your body is pushed to its
extreme and out of your comfort zone, it’s no longer a physical exercise but a mental exercise too,” he says.

In cycling the Manawatu, Jakub says the best thing is that there are many fantastic rides within an hour or two hour’s drive of Palmerston North’s city centre. “Proper, world-class, wonderful trips.”

In New Zealand he says some of his favourite trails to ride are in the Central Plateau and the Bridge to Nowhere in Whanganui National Park.

“If you enjoy meeting new people, great food and great wine then you can’t beat the rail trail.”

Tough goingLooking to continue his impressive portfolio of cycling expeditions, the trip he’s planning next is certainly an ambitious one. “We’ve been working on a big project for quite a few years now to go and cycle the South Pole.“

Jakub was once lucky enough to meet Sir Edmund Hillary and was given some sound advice over a cup of tea and some homemade biscuits.

“He said you should search for adventure. If you find one you should take all you’ve got, all your strength, experience and passion. If you succeed you will have the privilege of doing something for the first time.”

Jakub says it’s made him a different person.

Benny at home

“The X-Factor thing”

Benny Tipene is a musician who’s put in some hard yards in his home-town, writing original music, supporting local venues and playing gigs in student flats, and he’s a staunch ambassador for the local music scene – something he says needs more support.

There’s more to him than his recent stint on TV3’s local incarnation of X-Factor, that it almost seems dull to bring it up again.

“Oh you can,” Benny says. “If you want the inside scoop, now’s the time to do it.”

BennyThere’s no denying his legion of newfound fans would relish an inside scoop from the young man who won their admiration, simply by being himself – although Benny admits there were times when he felt awkward and out of place on telly.

“You like to think that you put your whole heart and soul into a performance, but at the same time, 70 per cent of it wasn’t live,” he says. “What I love doing is the whole live stuff. That’s what music is all about, you know? Taking it to an emotion at a certain point, or not taking it there because you’re not feeling it.”

“So in that sense I was like, ‘This isn’t what I usually do’, but I don’t regret doing it.”

“The only thing I regret is not enjoying the moment as much as I could have. I should have gone out more, or had that extra beer with Tom, or coaxed Whenua out more, but yeah. Other than that I had a really good time, it was cool.”

“The whole point of being on X-Factor is like, ‘This is me. If you don’t like me you need to vote me off’, you know.” Benny, who came third, says Auckland is probably the next step for him – he “needs to go where the work is”. There’s the EP, tours, and an eventual album on the horizon.

There are some other, just as talented people here.

He’s signed to Sony and has already released his first single under the label. He didn’t write this one – it was to be his winner’s single if he had taken out the competition – but he was given the option to release it and went for it.

“It’s well written, I worked with the guy who wrote it. Yeah it’s a catchy song, and you need those songs to draw people to new music, and that’s the plan.”

“I kind of knew what the music industry was like before I stepped in to the X-Factor. You’re not going to get the glitz and glam of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, because they are in a country that puts them in a position of being celebrities. Here, you sort of need to separate them both.”

“We’re lucky in New Zealand because it’s a really chilled place to live, but there’s still that whole tall poppy syndrome, where it’s like, ‘You can’t do that, you can’t be cool, you can’t be different, you can’t be famous, I’m better than you’, which sucks, but it also means that there’s no mass ‘celebrity-ism’.”

In action

The whole experience, he says, has been worthwhile and he has a lot to give back to New Zealand. Benny’s ready to see what happens next in Auckland.

“I love Auckland, there’s a lot of cool people in Auckland, but I think I’d be an asshole if I grew up there. I was born in Henderson, but I’m thankful for growing up in Palmy. I think there’s an environment here that creates really nice people, genuine people, and really creative people.”

“We make our own stuff to do, we hang out in beautiful spots with our mates and we can push boundaries. Sometimes you think, ‘There’s nothing to do today so I’m just going to try to do something a bit more creative than what I usually do’,” he says.

He’s also a strong advocate for pushing the boundaries further in support of creative people. Benny says Palmerston North is full of emerging talent that could use greater support and encouragement. It’s not an issue he believes is limited to the city, but one that he believes is seeing a drop-off in new artists coming through.

“I’ve been to council meetings – 30 of us sitting there to support funding and investment for The Stomach. It means a lot to the music community here. It’s our base, it’s where lots of us got started.”

When Avalanche City played a free concert in the city earlier this year, he was frustrated that cover bands were chosen to support them instead of original songwriters.

So in that sense I was like, ‘This isn’t what I usually do’, but I don’t regret doing it.

“It took me `til the finals of X-Factor to actually do a show [with them], whereas there was an opportunity in Palmerston North for somebody to open, and they chose a covers band! The covers bands need to stay in pubs. That’s why they’re covers bands. Imagine the little kid, or like, Sam Morgan, or all those people, there are just so many people out there now, imagine them being like, “Yeah, I opened for Avalanche City and I’m so inspired, and stuff.”

“If the X-Factor thing had not happened, I would still be the same as I was on the show. It’s nice when people say to me, ‘Oh it’s amazing what you can do with your voice and your guitar’ and all that, but I would have been just the same if I wasn’t on the show. TV bumps you up, but I don’t think that people in Palmerston North realise that there are some other, just as talented people here.”

“More people like [young local musicians] Abi Symes and Shayla Armstrong need to play those bigger gigs. When someone like Stan Walker comes to play here, maybe they’ll have someone organised or maybe they won’t, but it should be a platform for a new artist, because if they boost someone like that, it means they can go on to something else. They would be so proud to do that.”

Sarah and Lynn

A better place to live in

After growing up on a herb farm where living naturally was a way of life, Sarah Cowan travelled overseas as an international model for three years.

She lived in Milan, London, Belgium and Tokyo before returning home to Manawatū in 2006 and completing her Bachelor of Business Studies degree at Massey University.

Sarah“It just felt like the right time. I had been away from my partner (now husband) and I was given the opportunity to work doing something that I love,” she says. “Manawatū offers a lovely laid-back life style, a good place to bring up kids and everyone is so supportive and gets behind each other.”

Sarah spent her childhood in rural Manawatū after her mother and father, Lynn and Bill Kirkland, established The Herb Farm as a place where people could experience pure, natural and effective products.

Now she’s a business partner with her mother, at The Herb Farm and combines her passion and skill to “make the world a better place to live in”.

The family values a commitment to the natural way of life, something that is translated in every aspect of their business.

“It was something I had always been passionate about. I knew that natural was the way to go forward and I had a good understanding of the products.”

I believe it is important for people to be given information about harmful ingredients and toxins so they can make informed decisions.

Sarah and her mother have a close working relationship. Sarah is the Managing Director at The Herb Farm, where she is in charge of distribution, marketing and the overall running of the business, while Lynn is able to focus on new product development and look after Sarah’s 16-month-old son, Taj, while Sarah is at work.

Sarah’s and Lynn’s commitment to living naturally is the real deal. Many companies are aware of the value of using natural ingredients in their products, so they use a technique of “green-washing people”, Sarah says. Green-washing is the act of promoting a product as natural but not actually delivering a pure, natural product. It’s why Sarah and Lynn pride themselves on developing products that are “truly natural”. The products are formulated on-site using 100 per cent natural ingredients, of which many are grown in The Herb Farm organic gardens.

The Herb Farm Cafe

“I believe it is important for people to be given information about harmful ingredients and toxins so they can make informed decisions.”

The Herb Farm won both the Sustainable Business and Integrity and Ethics in Business categories at last year’s Westpac Manawatū Business Awards, and continues to grow with The Herb Farm products being stocked by more than 100 New Zealand retailers. The opportunity has also arisen to begin exporting their products internationally.

Sarah and her team of 15 work hard to promote sustainable living and making a positive difference in the world.