Meet the Christchurch cafe recreated in just four days. Words Shelley Robinson
It is a dingy overcast day, where winter has definitely come out to play. The Montreal Street area by Moorhouse Avenue is ramping up with the flow of trucks and cars. But on Walker Street, just around the corner, there is a curious aberration.
Meet Ally & Sid: the café recreated in just four days. And it is like a little light beacon, brightening the street from what used to be a rubber moulding factory. a dingy overcast day, where winter has definitely come out to play. The Montreal Street area by Moorhouse Avenue is ramping up with the flow of trucks and cars. But on Walker Street, just around the corner, there is a curious aberration.
Samuel and Aimee Nimmo took over the lease for the café, which was formerly the Anchorage and then the Park Ranger, on a Friday in November last year.
That left four days to turn it from a darkened café with walls, floors and tables coloured black, into their vision of a light, beach-inspired café.
“We spent all day and night with our church friends, painting to 3am. Building counters, chopping up tables. We were honestly exhausted, it was crazy,” says Samuel.
He felt his first inkling of dismay on Monday night when he looked around and saw there was much still to be painted, including the floor.
“If we don’t get this done, we’re not going to be able to open. So we put the message out [on social media] and literally within half an hour, 20 people had shown up,” he says.
His father, Lachlan Nimmo, a builder by trade, made smart work of a large black banquet table running through the length of the café, chopping it into smaller tables within 20 minutes.
“I’ve never seen anyone work so hard,” says Samuel with a smile.
It was the same for Aimee’s father, Danny Steel, a painter, who attacked the walls with his spray gun.
The tables and benches were all stripped back: the tables to their raw beginnings, and the benches coated in white paint with a shabby chic look. Just a hint of the black peeks through in the in-between spaces, a reminder that these tables carry with them a history.
The walls were painted a shade of white, as were the bookcase structures over the counters, where pot plants and keepsakes now reside.
A softness is added through the peach-coloured feature wall at the back, but it is the mural on the white brick wall, by Christchurch artist Maya Jade, at the entrance that suddenly became a hit, appearing in Instagram feeds. Hues of peach in almost wave shapes cascade over themselves in the mural.
“Our friend Saskia [Hoekendijk] had a dream. In the dream she saw a pink wall in our café, because we already had the apricotty colours going on. We said sweet, let’s do it,” says Samuel.
“Once we did that, honestly it blew up on Instagram. Every person that came in was getting photos in front of it. We were stoked,” says Samuel.
The garage door, which once saw customers roaring into the rubber moulding factory, now adds just the perfect touch to the café, where you imagine in summer it is thrown open so the café chatter and vibes continue into the street.
With the colours and paint in place, it was time for Aimee, or “design genius” as Samuel likes to call her, to come in with her subtle touch to add in a distinct beach vibe with the décor.
An area with wicker seats, a wooden table and a rug makes you feel as though this café could be happily ensconced on any beach location. Above the couch is an A+S neon sign that doesn’t detract but somehow seems to enhance the space.
Perhaps it is because it is from Aimee and Samuel’s wedding. It sat on the reception table, and the couple wanted to reuse it in the café. Which is how the name came about.
“We said, ‘How can we come up with a name that works with it?’ It was random, but it works,” says Samuel.
He’s right. The name itself has that youthful and chilled exuberance that sticks out on the industrial street.
The look is signed off with a beautiful arrangement from the Dried Flower Company.
But make no mistake: although the vibe is chilled, Samuel’s approach to coffee is not. He is a true barista captivated by coffee, which means you are guaranteed a true brew.
He grins and laughs when asked if he has a signature coffee. The short answer is yes, but, as it’s a bit of convoluted process to make, it’s only made for his special customers. Our lips are sealed!
It’s late afternoon now and heading into the weekend. The lawyers, doctors, car salespeople and office workers that are their customers will swap out for families and friends.
And so, the story has just begun for this haven settled amidst an industrial area, and created in just four days.