May 20, 2020
Issue 06

Swimming against the tide

In an age where most of us are wondering if we’ll ever get out of the rat race, it’s uplifting to hear others breaking the mould and surging ahead with their own successful business ventures. Tyler Hambleton sat down with young cafe owner and pest trapping extraordinaire, Tait Burge.

In early 2019, Tait Burge birthed his first venture in the world of hospitality, Swimsuit Coffee, located at 38 Dixon Street in the heart of Wellington city. 

In the same year, he also received the L’affare outstanding barista award at the Felix Awards.

Throughout lockdown Swimsuit was closed, but when Level Three was announced they implemented a delivery service.

The service offered their customers cold brew coffee, filter coffee, scones and more, although due to the Level Two announcement they decided to stop the deliveries. 

When asked about how their week of deliveries went, Burge said, “It has gone a lot better than I initially thought, although I didn’t really know what to expect. Releasing these drinks really helped boost our engagement. The objective of the delivery service was not to make money but simply to remind our customers that we are still here.”

He also expressed how amazing it was to see people enjoying Swimsuit in their own homes. 

Since its opening, Swimsuit’s popularity has grown mammothly, mostly due to Burge’s passion for providing an authentic and enjoyable experience for all of the cafe's customers. 

While Burge is the driving force behind Swimsuit, he would not be able to do it without some help. He now employs four staff members and has managed to keep them employed throughout the lockdown. 

The Swimsuit staff all share his vision for providing quality coffee, food and of course, good yarns.

The small but insanely productive team consists of William, Teng, Ayler and Missy. 

“A really rewarding thing for me is to see the staff growing and helping to create the Swimsuit vibe, staff wellbeing is a massive part in operating something like Swimsuit, where there is a large community vibe,” Burge said.

“If I show my enthusiasm for the business and my customers' experience and encourage staff to be themselves at work, we then create a unique vibe where no one feels like an outcast.” 

Whilst looking for a spot for the cafe, he was lucky enough to secure his first pick as the location for Swimsuit. 

“I had come across three different locations, the old Memphis Belle site being one of them. This had been my dream site for a while, I would walk past and say, if only I owned that cafe. I could do so much cool stuff in there.” 

He achieved the dream and has been living it for the past year. 

Swimsuit feels like more of a community hub than a cafe to myself and many others - you can drink great coffee, eat great food and converse with great people. 

Burge believes that other cafes in town often have an intimidating feel to them; he wanted to rid Swimsuit of that reputation by constructing a cafe that serves quality and speciality products in a relaxed environment. 

The Swimsuit team have also travelled to festivals around New Zealand and operated within them. 

The first being one of the most popular festivals in the country, Rhythm & Vines where they took over the festival’s wellness area. This was a learning curve for Tait and Swimsuit and allowed for them to understand what it takes to operate at a world class event such as Rhythm & Vines.  

The second was at 121’s inaugural three day festival, the team provided breakfast for the festival goers and - most importantly - class coffee to keep the attendees somewhat awake throughout the three days. 

Burge is not just a barista or a young business owner; he is also exploring other ventures outside of hospitality. Growing up around Wellington’s South Coast, he built a special relationship with the area's coastline.

When talking to a few mates about the deterioration of the coastline one day, they decided to set up ‘Traplordz’, which is an Environmental Conservation Organisation. 

They aim to engage young people in trapping predators, with the ultimate goal to make Wellington the world's first predator free city. 

The organisation has most recently signed a contract with the Wellington City Council to make conservation accessible to urban residents. Keep an eye out for their traps whilst walking around town in the future and if you are keen to get involved with trapping you can contact them through their Instagram page @traplordznz.

When asked about his goals for the future Burge said, “I think at the moment we are going to spend a bit of time improving the cafe, get it back to being stable, as it was pre-covid and then really fine tune the experience we provide.” 

“The big thing that I have noticed is the opportunities that arise randomly as well, by opening this cafe it has made our opportunities larger and more rewarding, we had a blast at the 121 festival so we will try to focus on trying to improve that event side of Swimsuit as well.” 

Swimsuit aims to open its doors at Level Two, so if you are in the area and feel like experiencing all that is highlighted above pop in and support a real local run Wellington business.