Having worked their way up in the business founded by Bridget Dunn and Jeff Kennedy in 2011, the new owners of Pōneke/Wellington’s Acme, Megan Wyper and Paddy Kennedy, already know the company like the back of their hands. They’re devoted to designing functional products from the perspective of coffee professionals for coffee professionals and the rest of us, while Bridget and Jeff continue to run Prefab, Acme’s flagship café, roastery, bakery, event venue and testing ground.
You’ve both been with Acme for a while now — what paths led to your current position? MW: I was working in another industry that paid really well, but made the move back into full-time barista work because I missed hospitality. I made natural moves through the roles, then was offered an opportunity to help design and build a café and roastery in Scotland. The owner and I lived in that store for four weeks, building, sanding and painting. I was given a lot of creative freedom and it was there that I became very interested in design, how things work and flow, and why we design things the way we do. All that has led to where I am now, contributing design insights and ideas to products I’ve been using for 20 years.
PK: I arrived at Acme when I returned to New Zealand after a couple of years in London and Spain. In London, I managed a team of baristas who made coffee at events, organised the logistics of shipping staff and espresso machines to different locations around Europe, and generally got stuff done to ensure the clients got their espresso coffee when they wanted it. I started at Acme with the idea that I had to get whatever needed doing done, and if I didn’t know how to do that, I’d find out. With my 20-plus years of experience in the industry and having held most roles in the café/roastery, I’ve come into the product-design side of the business with a broad knowledge of what our customers need when using a cup.
Your days must be punctuated by good brews… MW: Oh yes! We’re lucky to have a La Marzocco Linea machine in the office, so because half of the staff are ex-baristas, one of us makes a round of flat whites for everyone in the mornings. Customers all over the world send us super-tasty varietals, so if we have a yummy filter bean offering, we make a pot of filter coffee. The rest of the day is a mixed bag, really.
PK: We do get quite competitive with our latte art!
What other tasks are the go day to day? MW: Acme’s a small company, which means you end up doing much more than what your email signature states, which we both enjoy. When an idea’s sparked, we all work together to refine it. Our desks are all banked together, so we like to discuss ideas and issues, and we also try to squeeze in an office game of ping-pong after lunch.
What’s on the office playlist? PK: We have a Spotify account that we don’t give any love to, so we basically just listen to the same playlist every day, but I have been known to throw a curveball at the algorithm first thing in the morning and play some of the Hamilton soundtrack.
To complement the cups that are synonymous with café culture worldwide, Acme’s offering has expanded to include a home range too… MW: When specialty-coffee fans started wanting to purchase the gear their favourite cafés used, they tended to want one or two cups, not our wholesale packs, so we slowly started to change how we sold our wares to different markets. Cafés usually top up their products every few years, so we need to make them available for extended periods of time, but selling to the home customer means we can do limited products, like the mugs we recently collaborated with Karen Walker on. We’re working towards ‘setting the table’, in the home and in the café.