From &Sushi’s bright and beautiful sushi to OLIVIA’s curated fashion offering, Jeff and Tara Kim have established their businesses as part of the fabric of Newmarket. Zara Overton caught up with the pair to find out how they combine their love of food and fashion and just what attracted them to Newmarket.
NEWMARKET. Can you tell us about your backgrounds and how you came to start OLIVIA and &Sushi?
TARA: I was naturally drawn into the fashion business as I grew up in a third generation textile & fashion business environment. I also studied fashion design in Korea and graphic design in New Zealand. We wanted to open a sushi shop where we could take our family and friends every day with confidence. We also wanted to infuse Jeff ’s hotel customer service background into the sushi business where customer service is traditionally overlooked.
N. You became to be known as a bit of a Newmarket power couple! How did the two of you meet?
T. We met in Christchurch through mutual friends when I was a graphic design student and Jeff was working as a restaurant manager. We started dating and got married quite quickly after that. We’ve been happily married with two kids (Olivia & Ryder) for 15 years now.
N. &Sushi and OLIVIA have long been staples on Teed Street (with OLIVIA recently relocating to Westfield Newmarket) and it has become a hub for other cafés as well as boutiques. Why did you decide to open on Teed Street?
JEFF: We enjoyed visiting Teed Street before having businesses there, and had always thought about opening on the street. At first, a lease opportunity popped up for &Sushi (where OLIVIA is now) but Tara decided to take the opportunity instead as we thought Teed Street was known more for being a fashion boutique hub at the time, making it the perfect location for OLIVIA. After that, we realised that Teed Street was a trendy community which embraced creativity and art through fashion and food so we opened &Sushi a few stores away from OLIVIA.
N. What do you think about the trend of retail and hospitality collaborating more?
T & J. Fashion and food are essential parts of our lifestyle. I think fashion and food are connected in terms of being an outlet for expressing creativity and art. In that sense, the collaboration of retail and hospitality creates a community which in turn, leads to a very satisfying experience for customers. We will definitely see more of these collaborations in the future.
N. What is Newmarket’s best kept secret?
T & J. Heizo Teppanyaki is definitely a hidden gem – one of our favourite places.
N. Alongside OLIVIA’s collections, many would also agree that &Sushi’s sushi offering is an art form – beautifully presented and different to traditional sushi we might see. Are you both creative individuals? Do you have skills that are complementary to one another?
T & J. Tara has put a lot of input into &Sushi in terms of quality and presentation. She has a clear vision and an artistic flair which has helped with the beautiful presentation. She is also an amazing chef herself, so she helps with creating new menus. Jeff also has amazing creativity but he is more of an action man that gets things done. He is very organised and efficient so he puts his visions into practice in a very short time. We love putting things together and making things happen.
N. Do you get inspiration from each other for your business ideas?
T & J. We talk a lot about our businesses and bounce ideas off each other. Communicating brings out unique ideas which helps us make important business decisions. It’s really helpful having a partner with business knowledge as we can continue to talk and share ideas for the future.
N. OLIVIA launched in 2009 with a curated offering of unique pieces that reflect the fashion fusion between Korean and New Zealand trends. What is your design aesthetic?
T. I want to create designs that are modern but can be worn continuously, infusing the trends of Korea and the spirit of New Zealand. Rather than making a lot of clothes, I try to focus on the value of each individual piece of clothing. I see classics as an indicator of contemporary modernism. I feel that the near future may not be the future we imagined so we should consider the environment before anything else and create a society that lives with the earth. Fashion should lead not only to beauty but also to the spirit and culture of the times.
N. Whether it’s online retail or food delivery, consumers have more choice than ever before. How have you adapted your businesses to keep up with this fiercely competitive digital space?
T & J. OLIVIA has been online since 2017. It is definitely a competitive space but we have seen a large increase in our website traffic especially since the pandemic. For &Sushi, we started taking orders online as soon as we went into lockdown. We are continuously putting more effort into this area to gain a competitive edge over other offerings and this is where we think a good portion of our business will come from in the future.
N. You’re hosting a dinner party for friends. What is your go-to meal for entertainment?
T & J. We would have to say, Korean BBQ with marinated pork ribs or good old Scotch fillet with side dishes such as kimchi.
N. What do you do in your down- time?
T. We rarely have down-time as we’re busy juggling between our business and our family. However, we love going out for dinner on date nights to explore different restaurants and cuisines. Jeff also loves playing golf whenever he finds time to do it.
N. COVID has been incredibly challenging for businesses, with lockdowns halting physical trade and uncertainty of what is to come. It has also given businesses a chance to rethink their operations and introduce some (positive) changes. Have you changed the way your businesses operate in light of COVID? If so, how?
T & J. We must say we really enjoyed lockdown for the first two weeks. With all of our stores closed, it was a real break. Then reality kicked in after two weeks. We had to look at business continuity and see how we could survive the pandemic. Thankfully, the domestic economy recovered faster than we had expected and we are back in business. OLIVIA opened two more stores after the lockdown and &Sushi took on one more store (Eastridge Shopping Centre) which we haven’t been able to open yet due to a shortage of chefs. In terms of our operations post COVID-19, we’re focusing more on the digital space with OLIVIA working to grow its digital presence and online sales and &Sushi continuously working to improve its online ordering system.
N. Can you tell us about your latest collection ‘The Moment’?
T. Life is something that exists on the continuum of the “moment”. The moments of the past gathered to form the present, which lead to another present. People, work, health, and skin – you have to do your best at every moment. In this collection, sustainable fabrics are used to create timeless silhouettes. At OLIVIA, we make pieces that will be with you in all of your important moments.
N. You have two weeks off with no international travel restrictions – where do you travel to?
T & J. Any island where we can relax and enjoy the sun!
N. Career highlight so far?
T & J. Being featured on the NEWMARKET. magazine cover!
N. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
T & J. Our kids. They make us work harder and think about our ethical, community, and sustainability responsibilities.
N. In terms of juggling a business and family life, what is the best piece of advice you have received?
T & J. Be in the present– appreciate what you already have and don’t worry too much about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future.
N. What’s next for you both?
T & J. We want to grow our business by exploring the opportunity to expand into other parts of New Zealand and Australia.
&SUSHI | @ANDSUSHINZ
OLIVIA | @OLIVIANZSTORE
12 TEED STREET