Interior of Suzy's Coffee Lounge

Interior of Suzy's Coffee Lounge, Willis Street, Wellington, [c 1960s].

Suzy van der Kwast

Suzy van der Kwast grew up in the Netherlands, helping sell her father's produce at his shop. She came to New Zealand as an assisted immigrant. When applying to migrate here she told authorities that she would like to work where she could serve people. She arrived in 1960, and followed her two brothers to Invercargill.

Suzy became a waitress at Invercargill's Bamboo Restaurant, but soon grew impatient to work in a larger city. Suzy had been impressed with Wellington, although immigrants from larger cosmopolitan areas thought the city left a lot to be desired.

When she settled in Wellington, Suzy was amazed at how few cafés there were to serve the growing population. She and her boyfriend soon found an empty motorbike shop in Wakefield Street where they opened their first café. The Windmill was a great success. It opened from 6 a.m. to midnight everyday. The Windmill sold good coffee and a wider range of food than many Kiwis were used to, including salads, croquettes, frankfurters, and Dutch cakes.

After two years Suzy and her boyfriend split and sold the business. Within a year a new premises became available in Willis Street. Suzy had enough money from her first café and so Suzy's Coffee Lounge was born. The café was long and narrow with a mezzanine upper floor. The interior, designed by Austrian architect Fritz Eisenhofer, was stylish and dark, with small windows and lots of tables.

The food differed from most available in Wellington at the time. There was a salad bar where customers could serve themselves, as well as delicacies such as crayfish rolls. Suzy's attracted a wide variety of customers including office workers, students, politicians, businessmen and local characters, while cleaners and taxi-drivers often appeared in the evenings.

In 1986 Suzy's was demolished and the thirty-storey Majestic Tower Development took its place. Suzy's Coffee Lounge was one of the many Wellington institutions run by Dutch people that were instrumental in developing New Zealanders' appreciation for good coffee and café society. It was a Wellington landmark for 23 years.

Suzy remained in the food business after her Coffee Lounge closed. In 1990 she opened a Thai Restaurant on Cambridge Terrace, then ran Café de Circus on the corner of Cuba and Vivian Streets.

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