Character building and adapting to survive is all Mike Rigg and Sabrina Schellkes, owners of The Common Room on Maclean St, Paraparaumu Beach, can do after opening their café just five weeks before the Covid-19 lockdown.

"It's been a little bit stressful," Sabrina said.

"We are just so new.

"Opening only five weeks before lockdown we were already trying to work out what winter at the beach would look like and with the lockdown at the same time …


"But there's been so much support relying around us from this wee community here, it's been fantastic, so lovely.

"We've really felt that support."

Co-owner Mike was working in Mana at the Little Black Coffee Truck before moving to Wanaka with the owners of the truck.

Also a musician, Mike was playing a gig in Wanaka before being swept off his feet by Sabrina, the sister of one of the owners of the coffee truck.

Sabrina, a local Kāpiti wedding photographer, was looking for a new adventure, so the couple started up The Common Room, with Mike permanently moving up to Kāpiti on March 1.

"We were booming in the first five weeks," Mike said.

"We had no idea there was another coffee shop, Coffee and Flowers, opening across the road, but it's a good thing because now we're all building up a bit of a hub here at the beach and we're pretty different in what we offer."

With both Sabrina and Mike living off a keto diet, they offer a lot of high fat, low carb options.


"We are both keto which is something that our family has flourished in, so we will be offering a lot of keto based options."

But do not fear, they offer more than just salads, also offering classic scones and toasties.

"We focus on good food and especially in summer time will be focusing on gelato."

At the start of lockdown, the couple was in the same boat as everyone else trying to figure out what was happening and what they could do to look after their business.

"We could anticipate the Government was going to send us into lockdown so we were just waiting for it to happen," Sabrina said.

"It was very deflating to start having a regular clientele giving us great feedback and then having to start from scratch all over again after the lockdown.

"At the same time, in level 3 there were lots of people that were here that wouldn't have been otherwise.

"We had a number of tourists that became our regulars that will be going away again.

"It was also nice with no one working, we were able to network and get to know a lot of the locals around that we might not have."

Figuring out the regulations has also been a challenge so the couple has been playing it safe by continuing with takeaways for the first week of level 2, due to open the doors to dine-in customers this week.

Asked if they would have opened had they known the impact coronavirus would have Mike said, "We're glad we did open because if we had known the lockdown was going to happen it might have put us off.

"It's good character building and forces you to adapt, to find new ways to survive."

Looking forward to seeing what normal business will be like, the couple are just happy to be in such a supportive community.

"There's such a lovely community feel around here," Sabrina said.