Browne St co-owner/operator, Sam Fraser (pictured with head chef, Anu) hails from Wellington and has lived in Auckland since the age of 10. His family moved to Avondale when they migrated north, staying here over a 10-year stretch. At 31 years old, Sam has already co-owned two businesses, but a lot of hard work and calculated risks have gone into the journey and the game’s not over yet.
“My parents were really young when they had me, I had a privileged upbringing, but not money wise," says Sam. "I left Avondale College when I was in 6th form. School was fine, I just wanted to fast-track things and try something else. I stayed back just as long as I needed to, to get enough credits for Unitec. At the same time in 2006, I started working for [now business partner] Grant who was opening up Burger Fuel New Lynn.
I dropped out of Unitec and ended up becoming store manager. Towards the end of my time there, Grant and I talked about doing our own thing, without the franchise fees and all the rest of it.
To cut a long story short, Grant and I found a hardware store in Blockhouse Bay, bought the business and spent eight months trading as a hardware store before renovating it and turning it into The Block Cafe. We learned how to cut keys, about painting, power tools, selling compost. Then we opened The Block in January 2013.
I look at it now and go, ‘oh man, that was just crazy.’ It was one of those things that was go, go, go. It was a blur... and also quite hilarious/fun. I learnt a lot.
Around 2016, we’d begun the process of setting up in Avondale. The intention was to keep both [businesses] because there’s power in numbers: buying power with suppliers, changing staff around, better cash flow. We were flying high and mighty, thinking ‘man, this is gonna be good.
But we sold The Block in November 2018, because we just felt it was the right time to move on and put all of our energy and focus into Browne St.
I love this place. I love my staff, I love the regulars, everything about it and I think people see through it if you don’t. Our head chef, Anu has been with us for like eight years; Rohan’s been with us for five or six, along with a lot of the others too. We’d like to cement ourselves as an institution, so when people come here they go ‘oh man, these guys actually mean business, they’re for real, they’re not just tryna set it up and flick it on to make a dollar.’ We’ve invested so much in this place already. We’re here for good."
Photo by Bayly & Moore. Text #iloveavondale.