The Firepot café has just had its sixth birthday. Well, it was a few weeks ago now, but owner Michele Bishop says six years on, she’s still loving it.
“I still want to come to work every day, to be creative. I thrive on it.”
There’s been a lot of changes over that time, she says over a morning coffee in the Gordonton café.
Back in 2005 she and friends rolled up their sleeves and set to work on what used to be the smoko room of the old dairy factory.
“We had to haul out a whole lot of showers, knock down concrete walls and when we opened, we could seat 12 people inside. We were tiny. I just wanted something small and quaint – it was just me and a friend who was a chef.”
Today the Firepot can seat 60, inside and out, and has a team of 14, not including three chefs. It has also gone through a number of expansions, with the recent addition of an outside area, with planter boxes and potted trees, tables and seats.
“We’ve almost completed the outside part, we want to get a few more tables out here but it will soon be looking sharp. It opens the whole place up.”
A sales rep before this, Michelle had no experience in the industry and put herself through a number of courses early on, as well as volunteering at a Hamilton café on her days off.
“I had always enjoyed entertaining, when we had people over for dinner I’d take it to the next level. But I wasn’t a great cook. I’ve learned so much in a short time.”
Previous to this, she and husband Brent milked, for the last eight years on Woodlands Rd. “It was a wonderful lifestyle and a great way to bring up kids. But we sold the herd 2 ½ years ago.”
They now live on a lifestyle block on Boyd Rd, and Brent works as a rep for RD1.
“So he’s on the road, thoroughly enjoying it, and, best of all, still dealing with farmers.”
The locals have been fantastic. “They’ve been so supportive. We wanted to do something for them, so put on a $10 Farmers Brekkie, every Wednesday, from 8am to 11am. You get everything for $10, it’s normally $17.50 but it’s our way of doing something for the local community. A lot of farmers bring their workers in, it’s gone really well.”
They also offer a coffee and muffin for $6 on Tuesday. Then there’s the really rather wonderful lemon muffins, with lemon curd yoghurt, a speciality of chef Kylie Gunter.
“We still do these almost every day, and I couldn’t say how often we’ve given the recipe out.”
Although these days she doesn’t need to be at the café every day, she likes to pop by and see how things are going.
“For the first two or three years I worked here every day we were open, but now we’ve got a great team. I’ve always believed in surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. It’s inspiring.”
The Firepot Café is shut Christmas day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day – otherwise it’s open right through.
The hours are 7.30am to 4pm, open Friday night for dinner from 5pm.