Cameron Owen can be found serving coffees from his cart at the Grey Lynn Farmers Market on Sunday mornings.
Have you always been in the hospitality business?
No – I had a string of sales jobs and I never enjoyed them. I love coffee and I always thought – “I’d like to do that one day”.
How did you make the change?
I bought into a café in east Auckland where I learnt a lot about customer service and the coffee business.
But you don’t still have that café.
No - it started really well until the GFC hit and a new shopping centre was built nearby. I realised that a bricks and mortar outlet is vulnerable to many uncontrollable factors. When our lease came up for renewal, I decided to take a more flexible option.
What happened next?
Roasting coffee – I realised that if I could roast my own coffee then I could have more control over the quality of the coffee and I can supply to it other cafes. And then I got the coffee cart so that I could take our coffee anywhere.
Where have you been with your cart?
We are getting a lot of bookings for corporate events, like the launch event we recently did for Air New Zealand and the recent Christmas exhibition, at Studio One Toi Tū on Ponsonby Road. We also go to big shows like the French Festival and Taste of Auckland – they are non-stop and we serve thousands of coffees at those. But our home location is the Grey Lynn Farmers Market – we are there every Sunday.
Why Grey Lynn Farmers Market?
I love the regulars and the sense of community there. I operate the cart solo on Sundays so it’s usually a constant rhythm of making coffee, while taking orders, giving change, while doing my best to maintain a coherent conversation.
The Grey Lynn Farmers Market is trying to be zero-waste. How does that work with disposable cups?
Many customers bring their own keep-cups and we use compostable cups and lids. The market is supported by We Compost who turn the cups and lids back into food for the soil. I’m also looking forward to helping the market develop a system for using glass jars as temporary keep-cups. I think market customers will be keen to support that initiative.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you while serving customers?
I’m okay at recognising people and faces, but I’m hopeless with names. At my café, there were two friends who always came in together and I knew their names but always struggled with which name belonged to which man, and one day I used the wrong name for the wrong man. It was embarrassing and I know that it’s something I have to work on.
Do you ever manage to get a break?
It can be hard to get a break. I work odd hours, my wife is studying full-time to be a mid-wife and we have a four-year-old son. Sometimes he visits me at the market but he wants to “help” and finds it hard leaving “Daddy” at the market. Binging on Netflix is always a good way to unwind and I’m hoping that we’ll get sometime our paddleboard over the Christmas break.
As published in Ponsonby News : December 2019