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When Reporoa cafe owner Bruce Vermeulen decided to reward barista Issah Thompson with a day’s takings, the community rallied to show their appreciation.

Bruce

Issah’s been here for around a year and a half and everybody speaks highly of her. She makes good coffee consistently and she's a really hard worker, but her number one attribute is her cheerfulness. She’s always very happy.

Issah’s good for business because of her dedication, her friendliness and her willingness to work - to do anything. Some bosses give their staff a day off for their birthday or things like that. Everybody does different things. I'm learning to value my staff and to reward them; I hit the jackpot [with this idea].

It’s a very small café and a day’s takings is a significant amount. Part of my thought process was, "Should I give her a bonus? How much should I give her? Let's just do a day's takings.”

Issah making espresso

We have a community Facebook page, so I popped a message about it up on there, and that’s how she found out. The fun part was that it allowed the community to get on board as well, and that was really positive.

Some customers are once-a-week coffee drinkers, but they held off until the day, so Issah could benefit.

Issah

I remember I was out on the farm and when I got back into cell phone reception, my phone had all these missed calls. I was thinking, “What is it?”

I logged into my Facebook account, read Bruce’s message, and then I remember crying in the middle of the paddock. It had nothing to do with the money. It was the appreciation, and it was very overwhelming.

Bruce and his wife always help to look after the community. They go out of their way to help people.

bruce smiling at shop counter

That day was one of the busiest days the café had ever seen; I didn’t even get a break. I cried the whole day. It was good when I got stuck into making sandwiches, because then the customers didn't have to see me cry.

Our day’s takings were maybe two or three times more than usual. It was definitely breathtaking. We treated the kids to some toys and my husband and I went on a little mini holiday to Gisborne.

Bruce is a good boss. He understands what we need in the café to make it work, he’s a good listener and he’s kind. I had already trained as a barista before I worked at the café, and now I never want to leave.

mountain with golden sunrise