Victus Coffee and Eatery is a very cool wee spot in Bridge St next to Kirby Lane, it was called The Kitchen until Nick and Beth Schryvers bought the business in June 2022 and rebranded it. The name isn’t the only thing that changed, the food and coffee offerings have had a makeover too.
Nick told me when they took over the space they wanted to create something that wasn’t your ordinary cafe. While the food is delicious and the coffee fantastic, outstanding customer service and their commitment to sustainability and making a positive impact are very important to them.
Nick says “we interact with a lot of people every day and get a real feel for what is really happening in the community, that gives us the opportunity to respond to that.
“We see two fronts to social issues, firstly there’s the very real social problem of people being in need, people who struggle to put food on the table. But just as important is the huge need for social connection. As much as we’re selling food and drink, one of the most important things in the hospitality business is the interactions we have every day, we have the opportunity to connect with people in need, the opportunity to help build a community of people around us and our business. A lot of social good can come from that.”
If you know me you will know that while wine is my passion, it’s coffee that makes my world go around on a daily basis, it’s not unusual for me to have four or five double shot long black coffees a day, normally two before I arrive at the office. I judge most cafes on their coffee and know a good brew when I taste one.
At Victus, Nick brings a very strong background in coffee roasting and making to the business ensuring your coffee experience is perfect every time. Having worked at Allpress Coffee in Auckland and Sublime Coffee in Nelson he knows as much about coffee as anyone I know. His passion for helping people understand just how coffee beans from different countries, treated differently, can give you a totally different coffee experience. He knows how to extract the best from every bean.
Nick isn’t in this by himself, his wife Beth has also been immersed in the world of coffee and helping people for many years, in fact, it’s helping people that lead to their paths crossing before they discovered they had both worked for Allpress Coffee at different times.
“Beth set up the Kairos Free Store in Christchurch, it started as a bunch of volunteers collecting food leftovers from cafes, restaurants and supermarkets and has grown beyond anything she could have dreamed of. Kairos is there for anyone, not just those in need of food, sometimes it’s people who just want to talk to someone. There are a lot of lonely people out there.”
Nick told me that Kairos Free Store has been voted as one of top eateries in Christchurch and no money changed hands for food. The organisation now receives huge amounts of food from producers as well as leftovers and has recently set up in a large warehouse, “but the converted shipping container is still the community focal point.
“Beth is a very caring, hospitable person, she’s very generous and has taught me a lot about the true meaning of hospitality.”
So how did this community-minded couple end up in Nelson? Nick grew up in Nelson before moving to Auckland when he was in his early 20’s, “I packed my bag and said let’s see what happens.” His first job there was working for Allpress Coffee, Mike Allpress has incredibly high standards and an incredible passion for creating the very best coffee he could.” He says he learned a huge amount working for him for about five years before moving back to Nelson.
Then “one of my sons got a cancer diagnosis when he was five and I went to Christchurch for his treatment (five years later he’s all good), I lived in the amazing Ronald McDonald House for several months and at one stage I had too much food. I decided to donate the surplus food and was introduced to Beth, I asked if she would help me get rid of some food and she said if I wanted to help out I was welcome to volunteer. It turned out we had a lot in common, including both having worked at Allpress Coffee at different times.”
Beth is originally from the UK but moved to Cromwell in her teens where she worked in cafés and restaurants, including in management roles. She moved to Christchurch to manage the Allpress Coffee sites and was doing all the coffee training for Allpress for the South Island.
“Supporting less fortunate people lead to our paths crossing and a discovering a joint passion for great coffee drew us together, coffee was our way of becoming part of the hospitality industry.”
The couple moved to Nelson when Nick’s son finished his treatment and to be closer to family “Dan and Emma at Sublime had a couple working for them who were leaving just as we decided to move here so the stars aligned. We worked for them for a couple of years before buying The Kitchen.”
Nick had done some work for Grant and Sherilyn who owned The Kitchen and loved the concept they had for creating a modern café in the heart of Nelson, as well as loving the concept for Kirby Lane.
“We saw they were selling and thought there was a gap in the market for a modern café, we approached them and ended up taking over the business.”
“Our experience has shown us there are three key things in any hospitality business: atmosphere, the offering and service, we have seen so many businesses that miss one of those three things and the easiest one to work on is service. We have been incredibly lucky with staff who share our passion for loving people and know there’s no cost to a friendly and welcoming smile and making people feel special – it’s called hospitality for a reason!”
When it comes to the food the concept “is a bit split, people need quick, fast cabinet food to grab and go but there are also a lot of people who want to relax so we also have a menu. Our head chef, Charlie Boyle, has designed a menu that has classic offerings but with a twist.” Check out the menu and you will see things like Chorizo mince on toast and savory waffles, “stuff no one else does.”
And, of course, coffee is a real feature. Nick and Beth use Ozone Coffee, “we had our pick of coffee producers we could buy from but Ozone, based out of Taranaki (New Plymouth) also have a roastery in Auckland and in London. We didn’t have any personal connection with them but we loved everything they do, the relationships they have with their customers, everything they do is outstanding.
“Their business has also evolved over time, they have embraced change over the years to keep their business fresh and vibrant. The fact they are really connected to the source of the beans is important too. The more we can know about coffee the better we appreciate it, the better the coffee the more we enjoy it, and being able to identify the source of every roast is really important to us and our customers.”
The final word goes to a Maori proverb that features on Victus’ website (www.victus.nz) “He aha te mea nui? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata’ ‘What is the most important thing? It’s the people, the people, the people’.