One of the pioneers of Whangarei's cafe scene is back.

Helen Smith, who started her hospitality career in Whangarei in the 1990s, has opened Smith & Local in Rathbone St.

The cafe, at the former Kaffeehause site near ASB Bank, opened recently and offers delicious cabinet food, made fresh daily along with Northland roasted coffee.

The Whangarei-born and bred local started her career by opening Moorings Cafe on Riverside Dr about 18 years ago.


The business evolved into Vinyl Restaurant & Bar and, after several years at the Riverside site, moved to larger premises in Rust Ave. Ms Smith also opened Hot Chocolate Cafe inside Mitre 10 Regent when it built a new store on Kamo Rd.

She and her husband, Glenn (Fish) Lambert, set up GoGo Espresso, which is still operating (under different owners) in Reyburn St.

Ms Smith was also involved in the setting up and the launching of her cousin Julie Bells' popular Quail Cafe in the Whangarei Quarry Gardens in 2015.

Having been away from Whangarei for several years, Ms Smith said she moved back last year with no intention of owning a hospitality business again.

"Never say never," she said. "The opportunity to start something fresh and new when Kaffeehause in Rathbone St closed was too tempting to resist."

It took two weeks to revamp the inside space with a lot of help from friends, she said.
"People have been asking if I have taken over the business. My answer is, 'No, I haven't taken over the business. Kaffeehause closed and Smith & Local opened'."

The cafe makes almost all its food on-site with the emphasis on fresh, honest food, including simple breakfast options.

Ms Smith is proud to be serving Manaia Espresso coffee, roasted locally at Tutukaka by Graham Allen, for whom Ms Smith worked for many years ago when he owned Barfly in Rathbone St.

"It's great to be continuing our business association, " she said. "We are also thrilled to offer K4 Kombucha, created and brewed in Paihia."

Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 7.30am-4pm and Saturday 9am-3pm.

Smith & Local is also available for out-catering, with platters for work functions a specialty.