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Tongan entrepreneur Emma Ogilvie is carving a niche on K Road

Opening three businesses on Auckland’s Karangahape Road can be a bit of a gamble at the best of times, but throw a Covid-19 year into the mix and you’d think it would be near impossible.

But that’s exactly what Tongan entrepreneur Emma Ogilvie and her partner have done post-lockdown. Soana Aholelei caught up with her over lunch for this story.

It’s lunchtime at Mum’s place.

Entrepreneur Emma Ogilvie has one day a week off, and spending time with family is the little break she needs. But let’s be honest, running three businesses, you never really have a day off.

In just two years the 28-year-old Tongan and her partner, Chef Nick Landsman, have opened two restaurants and a bottle shop on Auckland’s iconic Karangahape Rd.

One of those, restaurant Bar Céleste, was voted top 10 in VIVA and Metro Magazines in 2020.

“Bar Céleste, which is the first one that we opened, is a French bistro and wine bar, and so we’re open six days a week until about 2 in the morning,” Emma says.

“It turns into a little bit of a party spot sometimes on the weekends; it has really gorgeous food and a really nice vibe.

East Street Hall, which we opened a year later, is a bigger venue. It’s really about community and events and bringing people together, like in a really comfortable space for big groups and things like that.

“Then there is Star Superette, our little shop/online store where we really focus on organic wines and really good quality produce, showcasing that through the retail shop.”

Emma has a degree in communications, marketing and French, which took her to Paris where she met her partner, Nick.

“My partner and I decided that after probably about four years or so of working that we wanted to kind of go more into food, which has just always been a passion since growing up in the restaurant,” Emma says.

However, at first, her family did not support her career choice.

Emma’s mother, Melenaite Hall, recalls: “I remember thinking no… But you soon realise how Emma has taken that to another level.

“We’re really, really proud… so proud.”

Emma’s not new to the hospitality industry. She grew up working and helping out in the family restaurant.

“When I bought the restaurant, she came in and worked as a waitress, kitchen… doing dishes in the kitchen so it was expected, I guess, of the children to come in and help mum,” beams Melenaite.

East Street Hall used to be home to a Samoan church, so it was only fitting that Emma recently held a Pacific Market Day there. She feels that more needs to be done to showcase Pacific cuisine.

“I think it’s just showing a bit of my culture, I guess, as well as embracing it for the community, just because I’m really proud of my culture,” Emma says.

“I think Pacific Islanders are some of the most hospitable people in the world, and just to have that in my blood is something really unique to offer.”

For now, Emma’s happy to grab a bite with family before heading off to do the next thing on her list.

“The businesses are still quite young so growing them, making sure that they are all steady and stable and having a bit more time for myself would be good.”

By Soana Aholelei

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