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In Conversation With Gray's

In Conversation With Gray's

This month we visited Gray’s, a coffee shop run by two friends, Dan & Grayson. Since opening its doors in 2022, Gray’s has carved out a place for itself in the Dominion Road community, providing a warm, welcoming space that is filled with curated vintage furniture, secondhand clothing and locally made goods.

We chat with Dan & Grayson about whether they prefer coffee or wine, the most surprising parts of their journey and how they are turning their dream of owning a wine bar into a reality.

Kia ora Dan & Grayson, tell us about yourselves and what you do.
Kia ora, we are Dan and Grayson. We run a coffee shop/retail space focussing on small creators and second hand goods called Gray's, with hopes of becoming a wine bar too.
How did the two of you meet?
We first met at high school (Mount Albert Grammar School) and although we knew of each other then we weren't close. A few years after high school our mutual friends forced us to hang out and eventually live together which was inadvertently the beginning of this journey!
How did Gray’s come about/begin?
Grays came to be on a whim. Driving home one day we saw a space on Dominion Road for lease and thought it would be cool if someone put a wine bar in there, and then (without thinking too far ahead) thought, "we like wine, maybe we could do it!". With the right mix of; wanting a change from our current jobs, hugely supportive people around us, and naivety we stepped into the world of opening a wine bar. We didn't get that lease or the next one we tried for. But then fortuitously our current spot became available (right next to the one we first saw) and we jumped at it. Working to get the licences for the wine bar was gonna take some time (even longer than we hoped), but the time has allowed us to find what other things we find interesting as well as take inspiration from places we enjoy to create the cool mishmash of a space we currently are!
We watched the Same Street, Different Shoes documentary that you appeared in. We loved getting an insight into the community that surrounds Dominion Road. What role do you feel Gray’s plays within that community?
We've lived and worked on Dom Road for the last few years and really like the street. We are stoked to be a part of the ways in which the street is changing but it's really important to us that we are part of the positive changes, as opposed to the negative ones that all too commonly follow cafe's and wine bars. For us the street has a very honest, casual and real feel to it that we hope our space can uphold and be a part of. Like the many great food spots along Dom Road where people meet to actually hang out and chat, away from the sometimes 'performative cool' (don't really know what that means, but it feels appropriate) that some other areas/suburbs almost require, it would be awesome if Gray's could be a hub for people to meet in meaningful ways. Ultimately our role is to fit into the fabric of a street which was already great before us.
What practises do you engage in to keep yourselves energised/creatively nourished and ready to run a shop?
In all honesty we haven't been particularly good at looking after ourselves in this way. Especially as this is our first experience of something like this, it's been very easy to get caught up in the constant needs of the business without taking time to properly rest and recover. Thankfully developing the space aesthetically, thinking about what new things to do, and how we can achieve them with limited resources has been a super creatively stimulating process. Otherwise for the both of us the basics like exercise, sleep, and eating well are a big focus and one of these days our weekly plans to get this on track is gonna stick - trust us!
Since opening, what is something about the experience that has surprised you?
Many many things. We really went into this without too much thought, which in some ways has been super helpful because we were probably less focussed on what could go wrong, but for that reason everything has kind of been a lesson. In particular the amount of time and work required has definitely surprised us - even though it might seem obvious, and in hindsight, it is.
I have to ask, what is your favourite piece of furniture/object in the shop?
Dan - I'd say the counter, It's a super cool piece but it's also one of the first things we bought (if not the first). It was kind of expensive at the time, and we didn't have a lease on any building, so it was a relatively big commitment to the idea that we would get a space and that Gray's would happen.
Grayson - I was gonna say what Dan said, so I'm gonna steal his second choice (also my second choice) - the Lundia shelving. They add a lot to the vibe of the space, and they were one of the most successful upcycles that we've done. Realistically they were pretty easy (we just stained them!) but they gave us the confidence that we can work within a limited budget and still get a great result.
Wine or coffee? And what is your order for your preferred beverage?
Hopefully it's not too much of a cop out to say we like both! But I think it's fair to say that Grayson is more of a wine guy and Dan is more coffee. Currently our preferred orders are for Dan an oat flat white and for Grayson a Barossa Ink Shiraz, or a Te Kairanga John Martin Pinot Noir (If he's feeling like splashing out).
What are your future plans for Gray’s?
We aren't entirely sure of what the future holds for the space. As a start the wine bar would be nice (especially considering our insta handle says 'winebar'!). Our focus has been so heavily on establishing ourselves and working towards the wine bar that we, maybe naively, haven't looked that far ahead. That being said, our hope heading into this was never much grander than a local neighbourhood wine bar, so, if we can do that while continuing to do what we currently do - and even better than we do it now - then that sounds like a happy result.
Find Gray's at 771 Dominion Road, Mount Eden, Auckland

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