Auckland’s latest achingly fashionable boutique bar, eatery and retail hub has opened in the eastern suburbs, and it’s called Orakei Bay Village. Among the cool collection of iconic Kiwi brands are Brothers Beer, Plant Barn and Farro Fresh Food.
“Over the past few months we’ve seen a growing number of locals discovering what’s taking shape here and enjoying the open plan and minimalist, industrial retail environment on offer,” says Elliot Knight of Equinox Group, the firm behind the development. “With the arrival of Farro, we have a further drawcard with their superb range of artisan foods and the fantastic service that Farro stores are known for.”
It’s a fitting homecoming of sorts for the good folks of Farro who initially sought to open their very first store on the site—eleven years and five stores later, they finally have their wish.
“We’re so excited about such a fantastic location,” says Janene Draper who co-founded Farro with her husband James in 2006. “We hope Farro Orakei will quickly become a neighbourhood favourite – a place to stop for a coffee and to pick up Farro delights, for those of all ages, or as a stop for those commuters on their way home around the bays or stepping off the train to then head home with a bag full or deliciousness.”
Freddie Hassan, who has been working for Farro for nearly seven years, was tasked with managing the new store. “It was an honour to be asked,” beams the 35-year-old Dubliner who was previously based at the Lunn Avenue branch. “Many of the Lunn Avenue customers live around the area, so it feels like I already know every second customer who walks through the door. I love being out on the floor and talking to people—it’s just my personality.”
Freddie started out as a barista, but his work ethic and vibrant personality ensured he soon worked his way through the ranks. “It was still a very small company when I started, so I got to know the owners really well,” he says. “There’s a real family-feel to the business, and it’s an environment that encourages staff suggestions—your voice is always heard. I’ve seen Janene and James go through some hardships, they’ve put everything on the line for this business and a lot of trust in us all, and with that has come opportunities. Seeing what they have done with the company has been inspirational and I’ve learnt so much from them.”
Farro started out over a decade ago with just 12 members of staff—there are now 450 across five stores. “As the business has grown, we’re proud that our family of small artisan producers has grown with us,” says Janene. Farro is famed for giving shelf-space to smaller-scale, passionate producers: “It’s the cornerstone of what makes Farro unique.”
The latest store further adds to the brand’s uniqueness. The stunning space is a former gin distillery in a fully restored warehouse adjacent to Orakei Train Station. Beneath the high ceilings sits all the Farro favourites—fresh produce, cheeses, and breads, a deli, and butchery selling only New Zealand-raised free range meats. The store is awash with colour and character and flooded with natural light.
“It’s such a beautiful spot, especially when the sun is out as my office overlooks the bay,” says Freddie.
Brothers Beer weren’t even intending on opening a new bar, but owner Anthony Browne admits that when “we saw the incredible warehouse style with the view through the pohutukawa over Hobson Bay” they knew it was the perfect spot to established their third location. What sets this one apart from their others is the barrel wall, made from old wine barrels, to age a range of sumptuous ales.
Further companies that make up the 29-business capacity include design store Father Rabbit, free range rotisserie chicken eatery Bird On A Wire, and The Botanist florists.
Elliot believes the “stunning site” with “unrivalled views over Judges and Mechanics Bay to the CBD and Auckland Harbour” showcases the city’s new potential under the Unitary Plan. “Orakei Bay Village is the first step to unleash this potential and I’m confident anyone that visits will see first-hand what makes it so great,” he says, proudly. “Orakei Bay Village brings a fresh take on open plan shopping environments, and with the brands and eateries now present there, it’s destined to be exactly the sort of thriving, lively space that the area has long been waiting for.”
Words: Jamie Christian Desplaces
Photos: Mona Fei