Pacifica – paradise in Papamoa

\Words Denise Irvine, Images Brydie Thompson

It’s hard to know what to do first at Pacifica: do I have coffee and cake, do I check out the store, or do I choose new garden plants?

It’s all good at this boutique business on Tara Road, Papamoa, encompassing a café (White Ginger), garden centre and homewares store—a one-stop-shop for indulgences. So my advice is to take it slowly, find a sunny table, kick back with a coffee, breathe out, smell the flowers, and plan your next move.

Pacifica’s quirky blue corrugated iron building is a long-established local landmark, and 18 months ago it passed into the capable hands of Janet and Ian Walker, former owners of Nourish Cafe at Te Puna.

Janet and Ian have the knack of bringing fresh energy to existing businesses, upgrading and refurbishing to a high standard. They’ve done this before as owners of Palmers Garden Centre at Welcome Bay, and Villa Ridge Garden Centre at Tauriko.

Says Janet: “I love the mix of a business like this. I love being around plants. Ian is from a horticultural background and is a builder by trade. We just fell into garden centres, really, and it’s a mix that we do well. We are a good creative force.”

The Walkers have also run an export cut flowers business near McLaren Falls, owned Tauranga’s popular Alimento Eatery for a period, and The Rock House indoor climbing facility at the Mount. They were operating Nourish, at Te Puna, when Pacifica came on the market. Janet says they were immediately interested. “I’ve always loved Pacifica. It’s got really good bones. It’s the most fabulous place in summer.”

So they bought it, later sold Nourish, and Janet says they’ve put their entire energy into Pacifica. The cafe has been completely refurbished. They’ve added a conservatory-style seating area, upgraded the homewares store, and smartened the garden centre with fresh stock, and a focus on garden art and whimsical displays. There is also a children’s playground, and a children’s menu in the cafe.

Janet says she and Ian couldn’t do all this on their own. It’s a team effort and they’re blessed by knowledgeable staff. “We’ve got good people in all sections of Pacifica.”

Chefs Raewyn Borrie and Jay Singh manage the kitchen team, Laura Martelli leads the front-of-house staff, Jo Moran heads the garden centre, and stylist/garden centre guru Nicole Beets does the outdoor displays. Nicole’s latest eye-catcher is a sturdy brass-framed bed spread with a ‘quilt’ of bright bedding plants.

Anyway, if you start at Pacifica with coffee, you’ll find an ever-changing cabinet—a visual feast—brimming with savoury tarts, filos, gourmet pies, baps, and lashings of sweet baking.

There is also an all-day seasonal menu, plus classics with a twist, including garlic feta mushrooms; kumara hash stack; eggs benedict; and a lovely pyttipanna of crushed herbed potatoes with caramelised onion, mushrooms and chorizo, topped with fried egg and homemade beetroot chutney. Fresh herbs and some vegetables come from gardens outside the kitchen.

In the homewares store, there is carefully chosen art, furniture, soft furnishings, pottery, bags, cook books, gardening books, jewellery, knitwear, scarves, and skin products. “It reflects our own tastes,” says Janet. “We like contemporary objects and we have our favourite importers.”

And it’s the same in the garden centre. Janet and Ian handpick their excellent range of pots and planters from Auckland wholesalers Willory Agencies. (“We’re pretty fussy,” Janet says). She has introduced garden art by a number of local suppliers; there are pottery birds, copper sculptures, corrugated iron wall hangings and more.

And, of course, you can shop for seeds, speciality garden products, herbs and vegetable plants, bedding plants, perennials, shrubs, climbers, groundcovers, native and exotic trees, and glean some sound advice from staff as well. There are also raised garden beds with abundant seasonal vegetables, planted to inspire customers to try something similar at home.

All the while at Pacifica, there’s a feeling that someone really loves this pristine, thoughtfully planned place. And they do: “We’ve put our heart and souls into it,” says Janet.

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