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Cafe owner: Covid ‘killed our business’

Carterton cafe Page 42 has closed its doors, citing financial troubles as a result of the pandemic. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

Cafe sinks under weight of pandemic

A Carterton cafe that had made the finals of a business competition has closed its doors, citing financial troubles resulting from the pandemic.

Page 42 Cafe and Gelato on High St South opened for the last time on Saturday.

Owner Josh Coe said he had kept the business going as long as possible. However, having operated the cafe at a loss since at least the start of the year, his resources had eventually run out.

“We battled on as long as we could, and we were always hopeful that there would be some major shift,” Coe said.

However, the move back to the orange traffic light setting had not provided the boost he had hoped.

Coe said customers had been slow to return to pre-omicron levels, and many of the patrons who had become accustomed to the red setting had been hesitant to dine in cafes under the more relaxed orange settings.

Page 42 owner Josh Coe. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Coe opened Page 42 about four years ago in a space he shared with bookstore Almo’s Books.

He said the cafe had just got off the ground when covid-19 struck.

“The first year in hospo is always hard – you’ve got to build up your customer base and keep people coming back; you’ve got to get your staff up to scratch.

“We got through that first year and were just starting to find our legs, and then the pandemic came along, and that’s been a rollercoaster.”

Coe said covid-19 had trained people to shop online rather than going out, and retraining people to shop or dine in venues was challenging.

After announcing the closure of Page 42 on Facebook on Monday night, Coe received an outpouring of support – and surprise – from the community.

“A few people have contacted me to say they were really shocked because we did try to keep a lid on it, partly in the hope that our situation would change.

“You don’t want to say that you’re closing in two weeks and then have the market change, and you’re able to stay open. It was a very fluid decision for quite a while.”

Page 42 had been active in the Carterton community, providing scholarships for two nursing students, vouchers for a vaccination drive, and work experience for Puawananga Wairarapa Young Parents, among many other initiatives.

“We do it because we love it. Hospo is all about being around people.”

Carterton Mayor Greg Lang said Page 42 had added value to the community through its fundraising efforts over the years.

He said the pandemic affected each business differently, with Page 42’s customer base potentially more risk-averse than others.

Lang did not believe the town was in for more pandemic-related closures, although he acknowledged the pressures on businesses.

“Any sort of High St business is very difficult at any time. If you take into account the high costs of your products, with the increased cost of transport and food products, it all adds to the mix.”

Lang said he understood the space left vacant by Page 42 would not remain empty for long, with plans to establish a new business in progress.

However, he said the overall future for Wairarapa was looking “very prosperous”.

Coe was a finalist in the Prospa Local Business Hero awards, which recognised small businesses as “the backbone of our communities”.

His nomination said the cafe had grown the skills of young people, with a “fantastic culture” set by Coe.

Although Coe was unsure what kind of job he would aim for next, he said he would like to continue with the community aspect of his work.

He had paid for his team members to seek advice from career guidance service Evolve Careers, and said that other hospitality venues had already contacted some of the team with work offers.

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