As first-time hospitality business owners, Diva Giles (22) and Logan Birch (26) have found that their age is a blessing and a curse.
“We had some problems when we were looking for a place. Landlords won’t take you very seriously when you’re young,” said Giles. On the other hand, having no one dependent on you is a huge weight off the shoulders of any business owner. “We’ve got no kids, no mortgage – we’ve got nothing to lose.”
Birch is a trained chef while Giles’ forte is front of house. The pair met while working at Prego four years ago (“Logan would try to impress me by chopping things really fast,” said Giles) before moving to London together, where they worked in their respective roles at The Dairy. They had long dreamed of owning their own business, and returned to Auckland to build up enough savings to make that dream a reality. Freaky is a stepping-stone to what they hope will one day be their own restaurant or wine bar.
While the pair has years of experience in the industry, as first-time owners they decided to work with companies which they felt shared their ethos. Freaky’s coffee comes from Flight Coffee and their tea from Forage and Bloom, both small businesses who understand the pressures of business ownership.
Giles and Birch took over the Wakefield St site in Auckland’s CBD three months ago and have been operating as Freaky for the last two. “We ran as we’d purchased it for a while, just to get a feel for the space and the customers,” explained Giles. “Then we shut down for a week and did almost 100 hours of renovations.” By the end of it, the brickwork on the shopfront was the only original thing that remained, thanks to a marathon effort from old school friend Andy Cosgriff and a rebrand by Luke Lockwood. The area was subleased from the iMart, an Asian supermarket next door, and the pair were given free reign provided they don’t sell sushi, liquor or Korean food. It turned out to be quite the opposite – Birch often finds himself next door for soy sauce.
The space is long and narrow and open all the way along, so customers can see exactly how their food is being prepared. The menu reflects the establishment – small, and to the point. “It’s a mix of healthy foods and naughty ones,” said Birch. “We’ve got limited fridge space, and only a deep fryer and an induction plate.” While the menu is minimal at the moment, the pair has plans to do pop-up menus with guest chefs.
While Giles admits there is a certain naivety to their approach, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “I think we’re more willing to give things a go,” she said. An example of this is Freaky’s loyalty system – or, rather, lack thereof. “We don’t want to start giving out cards where people come and get free coffees. We want to build a relationship with a customer and if we want to brighten up their day with a free coffee, then that’s what we’ll do.”