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Another Vic Books cafe

By Heather 21 Mar 2016

How did I not know about the very groovy Vic Books store and cafe at the Kelburn campus? Clearly my rural roots are well showing.

VB cafe1

With thousands of fabulous books and gifts from kids classics to fiendish sudoku puzzles, Star Wars memorabilia, travel guides, every kind of cookbook and all manner of fiction and non-fiction, these stores are for everyone, not just students.

My head was spinning, and that was without even looking at the textbook and grocery sections. Luckily there’s a café in the corner with delicious food and coffee for one to revive! 

And now there’s an upgraded Vic Books store at the Pipitea Campus, with a new café attached just inside the main Rutherford entry on Bunny Street. 

On a recent busy Friday I made a beeline for the new café and a Little Dough Co sweet treat with my coffee (success, at last!), before catching up with GM Juliet Blythe to find out a bit more about the businesses. 

Q. Who dreamed up this multi-faceted concept in the first place?

A. The stores are student owned (profits go back into student activities) and from the first espresso bar six years ago, the Board have aimed to build deeper relationships with both their student and community customers. Providing somewhere to grab a quick coffee or tuck away for leisurely enjoyment was a way of doing that, with deliberate street locations for both stores. We also do things like stock a large range of children’s books and hold Saturday morning story times at the Kelburn store to support the local community. 

Q. What’s the biggest seller?

A. Textbooks and coffee. Over 100kg of coffee a week between the two cafes currently. 

Q. How did you decide who to partner with in terms of the food and drinks?

A. People's Coffee was a choice from day one as we liked their local artisan style and strong values. They’ve been wonderful to work with, and we’ve grown together. We now have single origin filter coffee in bottomless cups, for example. 

The food at Kelburn is mostly prepared onsite, with baked goods purchased in (there was a lovely range of fresh herbs and fruits/vegetables on the café counter when I visited). 

And the food at Pipitea is also made on site, but with a smaller space and simpler items - just one or two all day breakfasts and simpler sandwiches. 

We have also chosen to stock local artisan products with similar business values, like Fix and Fogg peanut butter, Trade Aid, Wellington Chocolate Factory, Wooden Spoon Freezery ice cream sandwiches (at the Kelburn kiosk across the hub), and Little Dough Co donuts (Thursdays/Fridays at the Pipitea café, Fridays/Saturdays at the Kelburn café, and Thursdays at the Kelburn hub kiosk).

Q. What’s the difference between your two stores?

A. Kelburn is more of a destination, with a large range of books and gifts to ensure a sense of discovery and a journey well worthwhile. Whereas the Pipitea store is more business oriented, with a bigger selection of New Fiction and NZ Literature, and a slightly more ordered space for the business customer needing a quick in and out. 

Our Pipitea space was designed by Proffer, a Wellington design and build company, and we’ve been able to do some fantastic things like recycle old bookstore fittings from Parsons into the herringbone counter panels (if only those shelves could talk huh!).

We also have a small grocery/convenience section at the Kelburn store given the greater distance from CBD services, and the students hold a Wednesdsay farmers market in the central hub during term time to supplement that. 

Q. What should we watch out for in the future? 

A. More artisan food tastings, and more of the already-popular coffee education sessions for students and locals new to Wellington’s coffee scene. And continuing to adapt to the future needs of our customers.

Wow. When I reflect on all I’ve seen and heard, several things strike me:

  • Strong independent bookstores really are alive and well. Check out Eve’s recent round-up of fabulous Wellington bookstores here.
  • Since the stores are 100% student owned, you’ll be investing in the next generation of brains by visiting, so totally bang for buck.
  • And I’m SO doing my xmas shopping at Vic Books Kelburn this year (am I the first to use that dirty word so far this year, am I, am I? Yessss…).

If you’ve never been to either of the Vic Books stores and cafes, you should definitely make it your immediate mission to do so. Preferably on a Friday morning so you can include one of those delightful sweet treat donuts, mmm...


Vic Books

'We're for everybody, not just students'

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