Brent Hughes’ philosophy on work is simple – you’ve got to love what you do.
That’s especially true when your work day starts at 2am and 12-hour shifts are the norm.
“As bakers, we have a saying that if you’re not doing 12 hours in your bakery, you’re doing something wrong.”
Hughes opened The Grumpy Baker on Hamilton’s Victoria St in January, one of more than 50 new business to set up shop in Hamilton’s CBD in the past 12 months. His baguettes have already earned him a loyal group of customers.
The migration of new businesses into the central city, coupled with a host of multimillion-dollar builds across several inner-city blocks, has business leaders talking of a CBD renaissance.
Electronic card spending data shows shoppers spend $164 million with CBD retailers between January and March this year – only $2m below 2018 and 2019 first quarter figures, and $6m above the same period in 2017.
Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Vanessa Williams said the CBD’s bounce back post-lockdown is a testament to the resourcefulness and creativity of business owners and their staff.
“I think businesses responded really well and really quickly to Covid and, for the most part, people scrambled really well,” Williams said.
“With our increasing population, with the infrastructure that’s going into the city, Hamilton is also a really good contender for head offices. Rabobank is establishing their head office here and that’s given a huge degree of confidence to other businesses.”
An estimated 22,000 – 25,000 people come into the CBD each day for work.
During last year’s lockdown restrictions, Marcus Potroz, owner of jean shop Texas Radio, turned to pedal power to get his goods to customers. The shop was allowed to operate as an essential supplier of clothing.
Potroz cycled about 100km a day, six days a week, delivering jeans, t-shirts and sneakers to customers around Hamilton.
“Customers would see me pull up on my pushbike, I’d ring the doorbell, and leave the package at their door. Some days I’d deliver their goods the same day they purchased them online, and so they’d go back online and order more stuff,” Potroz said.
“Sometimes I’d have to go back to the shop three times to refill my backpack.”
Potroz said the future of Hamilton’s CBD is “looking pretty rosy” given the huge investment being made in its built environment. It’s a view shared by Mike Neale, managing director of NAI Harcourts Hamilton.
Major projects, such as Union Square, the Tristram Precinct and the new ACC build, will enhance the CBD, as has refurbishments of existing city buildings.
“[Developer] Matt Stark was very much the first one that started it in terms of the CBD. He’d buy buildings when you virtually couldn’t give them away,” Neale said.
“He’d spend more doing them up than he did buying them, and he repositioned these buildings really well.”
Whereas, in some cities there has been a trend for people to want to work from home post-lockdown, central Hamilton has experienced good demand for office space.
Neale said he knew of at least three mixed-use developments planned for the CBD that would include a mix of retail and office space and apartments, similar to Parkhaven on Tristram St.
“We all remember what Hamilton was like 15 years ago and things have certainly changed,” he said.
“Things like two hours free parking has certainly made a big difference. I talk to people on a daily basis, and they say it’s so much easier now to come into the CBD.”
In the seven months since opening his bakery, Hughes has seen numerous “for lease” signs come down from central city shop fronts and businesses move in.
“In the CBD you have a bit of a captive market here with the offices and the staff, but also you’re away from the big retailers,” Hughes said.
“We’re building up a pretty good following and, for me, it’s about having good old-fashioned service and being friendly to everyone. I’m also passionate about this industry.”
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