After nine years of being the owner-operators of The Bean Cafe, Pat and Wendy Wynne are are saying their goodbyes.
The husband and wife team first took over the cafe back in 2010. At the time, Pat was working as an operations manager for a tourism company in Rotorua and they were keen to get involved in something more local.
“Pat’s always fancied the idea of a cafe,” Wendy says. “Something new, something different.”
The couple had been regulars of the cafe so, when its previous owners decided to sell, they took the leap and bought it.
Pat had run businesses before, but for Wendy, who is also a paramedic with St John’s Ambulance Service, it was an entirely new experience.
“It was a huge learning curve,” she laughs. “But a fantastic journey!”
Although those early years were fraught with different challenges — managing staff, handling paydays and taxes — Wendy was more than up to the task.
“How it went was I basically ran the shop itself, and Wendy did all the accounts and also helped in the shop,” Pat explains. “My wife started off with a real lack of knowledge, but picked up on it very quickly. She’s done a marvelous job!”
That’s not to say that things always went smoothly for them. During their first year in business, Pat was called away to work as a medical officer when the container ship Rena grounded into the Astrolabe Reef. Suddenly, Wendy found herself left alone with the cafe for a period of 8 months.
But the couples’ hard work and warm personalities began to win over staff and customers alike, and the business grew.
They started off with only two people on staff, but eventually they were employing eleven.
“Cafes sink or swim based on the atmosphere in the cafe,” Wendy says. “And Patrick’s built it up. He has a fantastic rapport with the staff. It’s like family.”
When it came to their customers, Pat and Wendy treated everyone like dear friends.
“If it was someone’s birthday, we would sing them a song and give them a cake with a candle,” Pat says. “When ladies had babies, we would send them flowers and presents. When a customer came in with their dog, we would give the dog biscuits.”
Over the years, this sort of thoughtfulness built long lasting loyalty and friendships with people throughout the community. Customers began showing their appreciation in a number of ways, and these memories have become highlights for the Wynnes.
“About a year ago, a little three year old came in, gave me some flowers and said thank you,” Pat says. “That showed me that we’re doing the right thing, when that sort of thing happens.”
The decision to sell The Bean came about when Pat had a motorcycle accident earlier this year. In April, he hit a pothole that sent him flying from his motorcycle and shattered his wrist.
“I can only work fifty percent of the time of what I used to do,” explains Pat. “That was really the trigger.”
Although it has been a bittersweet departure, the Wynnes are excited to have Kevin Hayter take over and bring some fresh ideas to the business.
“He was the chef at the Charter Club when I was the president there, so we go back a long time,” Pat says.
Looking back, the Wynnes are filled with a sense of pride. The Bean became a local fixture for regular meetings and hangouts, coffee sales grew from about 50 cups a day to around 300-400 on a good day, and the same care with which they treated people was also directed into the upkeep and design of the space.
“But the business wouldn’t be what it is today without my wife,” Pat says. “She has, financially, managed the business very well.”
“And again, we wouldn’t be where we are today without our staff,” Wendy says. “Our staff are the key to the place. The girls are just wonderful. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Moving forward, Wendy will continue her work as a paramedic and Pat is having an operation that will keep him “out of the system” for three months. But once he’s recovered, he is eager to tackle his next adventure, whatever that may be.
In the meantime, locals will still be able to catch the Wynnes having coffee at their favorite cafe, sharing laughs and winning people over with their trademark charm.