Award-winning Colenso Cafe up for sale

19:53, Feb 04 2014
Ruth Pettitt Colenso cafe
TIME TO GO: Ruth Pettitt and husband Andy will retire after 25 years running Colenso Cafe in the Coromandel.

Coromandel's Colenso Cafe is up for sale after 25 years. The busy country cafe has made a name for itself in that time, winning three regional cafe awards, and runner-up best cafe in New Zealand according to Cafe Magazine.

That is all thanks to the hard work of Colenso Cafe's owners, Andy and Ruth Pettitt.

The couple say after a quarter of a century, it is time to turn their hands to other things.

"We can't be doing this when I'm 100, as much as I'd love to, and 25 years is a long time," said Mrs Pettitt.

"It's a busy and demanding business and it's going so well it seemed that it was probably a good time to pull out. It's been a happy business. For me it's been very fulfilling."

The couple started the cafe after deciding that orchard life wasn't for them, said Mrs Pettitt.


"It's actually really hard to rely on orchards and their income, and we've got four children and we wanted to educate them well and it just wasn't secure enough for us."

They approached the local council at the time for permission to turn their second-rate fruit into juice.

"They said sure, but you'll need to fit the kitchen," said Mrs Pettitt.

"For a year we thought ‘we can't do that, it's a very expensive thing to do'. Then we thought, ‘well, we want to stay here so let's do it'."

Mrs Pettitt said despite being an organic cafe in the country - unusual 25 years ago - business went well.

"From the moment we decided on having a cafe to when we opened, everything went so smoothly."

There had been several highlights, including coming runner-up in Cafe Magazine's best cafe competition.

"That was a big surprise to all of us because you have no idea. They don't let on that they are checking you out. We were on Cafe Secrets (television show) with Julie Le Clerc. That was great fun."

The Pettitts were also asked to provide picnic lunches for a local tourist operation, work that made surviving the quieter months in winter much easier.

Most recently, the cafe's long-time chef Carol Whitford was asked to provide a recipe for The Great New Zealand Cookbook - to be published in the middle of this year.

Mrs Pettitt is quiet on what the recipe is, but said anyone who has visited the cafe will recognise it. "It's very delicious, we've done it from day one."

Mrs Pettitt said the couple plan to remain in the Coromandel, and will look for other things to do - "but not something as all-consuming".

She hopes the new owner will be someone who loves the business as much as the couple have.

"It will be someone very special who takes it over."


Section up for tender 

The 1.5-hectare section on which the Colenso Cafe sits in Whenuakite goes up for tender in February, along with the cafe business and a homestead.

First National sales person Sandie Faiers said there had been a lot of interest in the property.

"I think because this is the first time it has ever been on the market, and because it is so iconic, people can see the opportunity. The goodwill over 25 years has been amazing."

She said no ballpark figure for sale was being given out.

"The reason is because it is so unique.

"I don't want to pluck a figure out of the air and make it so high that people who might have submitted a tender don't, and also people think ‘x' amount for it which could be way more than what I might indicate."

The tender closes on February 14.

Waikato Times