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Pair loco in love with bookshop

When Martin Davis asked Virginia Kunz to knit him a tea cosy, little did he know it would be the start of a beautiful friendship and, eventually, a business partnership.

“He likes his tea leaves, and found when he was getting to the bottom of his second cup, the tea had gone cold,” Kunz said.

That was four years ago.

The friends are now 18 months into co-owning and co-managing Loco Coffee and Books on Featherston’s Fitzherbert St.

Before buying the business from previous owners Kate Mead and Ross Vickery, Davis would often walk past and think, “I’d love to own that bookshop”.

Davis, who had gone “gypsy for two years” in a caravan in Otago, returned to Featherston for Kunz’s birthday to find the bookshop was for sale.

“We bought it that afternoon”, Davis said.

When they took the business over in September 2021, they knew “nothing about bookshops or coffee”, he said.

Davis’ background is as eclectic as Loco’s wide range of books.

He trained as a chef, studied art history and English literature, developed a cultural programme for the Uniting Church in Australia, had a stint as an art historian, and – more recently – farmed sheep and beef in Featherston.

Kunz, who had retired before going into business with Davis, has a background in secretarial and front-of-house work in the fast-paced commercial world.

She also established Wairarapa workshops for the Look Good, Feel Better charity, which helps patients ‘face cancer with more confidence’.

Although Kunz “had never done hospitality before” she’d learned to “love the people contact”.

To learn the coffee side of the business, the pair enrolled in barista classes at Havana in Wellington, and, through trial and error, finally settled on a roast called Super Deluxe for their shop.

The lessons paid off: today “coffee is really important to our reputation”, Kunz said.

According to Davis, Loco’s book stock is “dedicatedly second hand,” with books coming from a range of sources, including “marriage break-ups, downsizing, clear-outs, and avid readers”.

It’s like a dating agency, he said: “That’s the really satisfying part of the business, bringing people and books together.”

Customers certainly seem satisfied.

Perry Cameron and his wife Dale are frequent visitors, dropping in “three to four days a week”.

“We like the company, the atmosphere, the coffee,” Cameron said. “The lattes are probably the best in town.”

Loco Coffee and Books is part of Featherston Booktown, which will hold its Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival in mid-May.

    The Festival’s official programme launch is on Tuesday, March 28 at 7.30pm at the Property Brokers Featherston Sports Hub.


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