MOVING ON: Mike Carder-Dodd and Liane Bell take a seat in the departure lounge, after 12 years of serving food and coffee to residents and tourists alike. Photo James Sandbrook OB4540-01

AFTER 12 years of owning the iconic Two Fish Cafe in Opotiki, Mike Carder-Dodd and Liane Bell are ready for a change.

Making the decision to sell their shop earlier in the year, the listing was quickly snapped up by the owners of L’Epicerie in Whakatane.

With a long family history in cafes, Liane says it was time to do something different. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. It was time for a change,” she says.

It was the same sentiment that pushed her and her partner to purchase the cafe 12 years ago, when then-owner Pete McGhie decided to sell. Having already worked in the cafe for two years, and with many family-owned cafes growing up, Liane decided to take the plunge.

“Mike was a car salesman then, and we were both ready for a change,” she says. An Eastern Bay girl, Liane had met her future business and life partner at a “Be Your Own Boss” seminar, after he moved into the area from Auckland.

From there, the cafe steadily developed into a staple of Opotiki, supplying residents and tourists alike with “great coffee and home cooking”.

Liane sums up their time in the store as a “crazy, busy time”.

CHARACTER CAFE: The cafe is known for its eclectic array of ornaments and collectables.

“We’ve got to learn so much about people that we never would have met otherwise.

They’re our big café family.

“In the end, it’s about being a part of the community, and finding your place in it. And I think we found our place,” she says.

The cafe’s aesthetic was inspired by Wellington cafes with the couple looking to create a place where people could “hang out, and have a good time”.

They have achieved that dream with customers coming from as far as Gisborne and Rotorua for their coffee and meals.

And while Liane, self-proclaimed as “mad about coffee”, tended to the barista and baking side of things, the charming Mike took care of the front of house. “I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s hard work, but really rewarding,” he says.

Mike says during their time at the cafe, they have always tried to create a positive atmosphere for staff and customers.

“We decided to base it on the kind of cafe we would like to go to. That way we were always happy to be here,” he says. “We’ve been really lucky. We’ve had some really great staff.

And I’ve been really lucky, because Liane is an amazing cook, baker and coffee maker.

She’s our star performer,” he says.

But outside the shop, Mike says the reach of their customers still manages to find them sometimes. “We really enjoy running into our customers, whether that’s in Gisborne or wherever,” he says.

Having been given tickets to events, T-shirts for his collection and other gifts by customers over the years, he says they are like “a part of our extended family”.

Even after the sale, he says regulars will still be able to see the pair around town, as they will be staying in Opotiki.

“People will still see us around, we’ll just be on the other side of the counter now,” he says.

Until then, with a clear schedule for the first time in over a decade, Mike says they will just be enjoying the summer for now.

“We want to have a summer off together. We haven’t had one in 12 years. Have some family time, and just have a bit less stress,” he says. They plan to start looking at possible business opportunities in early 2019.

Saturday marks the last day the couple will stand behind the counter although they plan to continue visiting the cafe after it reopens next week.