For Rotorua couple Merv and Dana Symons, Robert Harris Cafe has been more than just a business.

When they purchased the cafe and moved to Rotorua almost 16 years ago, they found it was a great way to fit into the community, a way to meet people and make friends.

These days many of their closest friends are people they have met through the business and they know dozens of regulars by name.

So the decision to call time and sell the cafe was not an easy one, but one that was necessary because of health reasons, Mrs Symons said.


"It has just become too hard a juggling act."

Mr Symons had a stroke seven years ago and due to ongoing health issues they want to focus on his health, which is why the business is for sale.

The couple are well known around town. As well as owning the Tutanekai St business, they set up and owned the cafe at Rotorua Airport, as well as Indigo Cafe in Hinemoa St and another Robert Harris espresso bar in town.

"The decision to sell up is really big because we know so many of the customers. Merv loves coming in and having a chat with them."

Mrs Symons said most people who owned a cafe only did so for about five years maximum.

"It takes a special kind of crazy to do this for this long. We love the people side of business."

She said Robert Harris had always been Mr Symons' "baby".

"We have enjoyed it. You have to be a people person to really enjoy it."


Mrs Symons admitted she didn't initially expect to be in a hospitality job. She moved from Romania and after a few months in Auckland the couple relocated to Rotorua where she initially ran a lingerie shop.

"I didn't think I was a people person until I realised how easy it was to make friends through the cafe."

She said she only became involved with the cafe when they established Indigo - and initially she planned to get in and establish the business to a point where they could leave it with a manager - but that never happened.

"I thought I'd give it six months then I got the hospitality bug. Once you get the bug it's very hard to get out."

Mrs Symons said the highlights were simple - seeing the staff win competitions and making plenty of friends.

"The hospitality industry, it is always a part of you. Even though we are selling, we will always be part of Rotorua community and always be coffee lovers."