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Photo / Karen Ishiguro

Public Record & Wonder Journal Are Two Stores Melding Japanese and New Zealand Creativity

Taking a break with Suntory BOSS Coffee, two local business owners explain the energy that drives them

Suntory BOSS Coffee is synonymous with the character, convenience, and buzz of Japan. It’s an energy that can be found in Tamaki Makaurau too, with a handful of driven locals shaping businesses with a distinctive vision that blends the culture of both countries — enterprises like Public Record, Wonder Journal and Yarn NZ, whose founders are busy, bossing it, and committed to their chosen field. They also have fond memories of Suntory BOSS Coffee; an urban icon in Japan, it has an avid fan base in Aotearoa too (maybe it’s that no-fuss delivery and premium taste) and its cans can be found throughout Auckland, making it a staple of urban life for the myriad of different professions that make up the humming city. 

From places to pick up a Suntory BOSS Coffee, to spots that have that unique urban energy, we've been popping into some of our must-visit locations in the central city — like Yuka O'Shannessy's unique gallery and store Public Record in Ponsonby, and Yoko Shimoyama's store Wonder Journal in Britomart. We caught up with both women to find out about their attitude to business, what they love about Aotearoa and Japan, and what makes Suntory BOSS Coffee so iconic.

 

YUKA O'SHANNESSY, PUBLIC RECORD, 76 PONSONBY ROAD

Yuka O'Shannessy, Public Record. Photo / Karen Ishiguro

For those readers who haven’t been to Public Record yet, what it is like?

Dedicated to local and international artists and makers, Public Record has a special focus on New Zealand and Japanese artisans, celebrating work that is intelligent and is finished with a high standard of craft. Public Record aims to fill the space between a gallery and a store. Somewhere people spend time admiring the work and want to learn the stories behind them. I carry many one-off artisanal products, so it’s always changing and the people who come regularly enjoy a new atmosphere and beautiful things to see. Most importantly there are no barriers for them to be able to pick them up to look closer, or take them home on a whim.

What’s your vision for it?

Right now, I’m very focused on the artists and makers I work with and representing them in the best possible way. I’m dedicated to finding unique work and creating the best environment to show it in. We run exhibitions and workshops regularly for exchanging culture, aesthetics and traditions in craft. In the near future I hope to do a show with some talented New Zealand artists in Japan. I work closely with a Japanese gallery and some stores in Tokyo, and I’d love to be able to introduce New Zealand talent to Japan and participate in the cultural exchange from that side too. We are very excited about the possibilities for new understandings of traditional practices.

What do you love about Japanese cities?

So many things, but if I had to choose a few… I love how every city in Japan has a unique individual substance. Each city differs slightly in its offering of food, art and culture and leisure spots, so Japanese people love travelling through their own country, exploring different cities in their spare time. Every city focuses and champions locally produced products, thinking about what makes their town unique in order to thrive. This creates a great cycle of growing economies.

Luckily New Zealand is doing so well in this time. So people are finally starting to think about more local production. It’s hard for New Zealand business because our population is so small, but we have such great resources and talent everywhere, so hopefully more unique and interesting shops and products will rise using some local resources. I see New Zealand still has a great potential to grow, which is very encouraging and pretty exciting.  

The other thing I miss is having access to so many large scale, international shows and exhibitions.  But I try my best to create some interesting, exciting events from my space so hopefully people who live around Auckland city can also enjoy participating in some events.

Coffee culture is such a big thing in Japan, and it’s famous for canned coffee like Suntory BOSS Coffee, why do you think this is?

Suntory BOSS Coffee is very iconic. A great, authentic and bold logo, name and great branding. My husband is a graphic designer so I know how important it is to have great branding to have for the products. With Suntory BOSS Coffee, the logo has hardly changed over many years. Branding, that’s one of the things that we care about too!

Are you a big coffee drinker?

Yes! My husband and I met at a café.

Do you have any memories of Suntory BOSS Coffee from your time in Japan?

Suntory BOSS Coffee is one of my memorable tastes from Japan. I used to buy it regularly from the vending machine when waiting for the train to come or waiting at a meeting spot. I especially love holding the hot can in the cold Japanese winter; it gives me warmth and pleasure. They are a great company and it really brings back a lot of memories from my Japanese youth. I’m so happy to see they are available in New Zealand, I can’t wait to share the taste and memories with my daughters that they are now reaching up the age that I start enjoying having a canned coffee.  

Where would be your favourite place to take a break and enjoy a Suntory BOSS Coffee?

Just outside of my store.

Could you tell us about your Japanese heritage?

I was Tokyo born and raised but I’m half Korean (my Dad’s side) and being a mix, I feel much more comfortable here in New Zealand. I studied fashion in New Zealand, so I have learnt and been immersed in New Zealand’s aesthetic and audience and their needs since then. I want to challenge and to introduce some products and art objects that are specific to the artist’s practice, but designed to fit modern life. A new, beautiful silhouette that makes people feel ‘wow’.

Are there any specific elements of Japanese culture and thinking that are part of your business Public Record?

I grew up in Tokyo for almost half of my life and another half in Auckland now. So I think I understand both aspects of each country’s aesthetics. However, I’m naturally drawn to or to use the wabi-sabi philosophy for my creation and for my business. It really is part of Japan’s aesthetic.

Wabi-sabi essentially means embracing the flawed or imperfect, so to find the beauty in broken things, old things or unexpected compositions. For us, this extends to things that age well and still maintain their function and beauty, even with a few knocks… Ultimately leading to owning less things in your life. This philosophy can imply a similar interpretation to minimalism.

I use this practice every day. It is particularly embodied in my retail space in Auckland, shown in the products I exhibit, how things are displayed; with worn furniture, dried flowers and just the right amount of letting go of control in all of these elements.

Yuka O'Shannessy, Public Record. Photo / Karen Ishiguro

What about New Zealand culture – how does that influence your business? 

Working with Japanese artists, they are super dedicated, almost too dedicated. New Zealand has a young history and energy that I can feel is kind of flexible and with so much potential. These points of difference give me great motivation to cross-pollinate both cultures to see what comes out… We all have a positive and negative side.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to be their own boss and start up their own business?

I always imagined being my own boss, and what type of boss I wanted to be. It took me a while to get to where I’m at, and it’s still miles away from where I want to be. I’m not sure that I’m the right person to say these things… but yeah, ‘Dream Big’! Sometimes, what you do right now isn’t fun, or what you’re willing to do, but that will become your uniqueness. So, work hard at it and it will come back to you for good.

What motivates you? How do you find the energy and passion to be productive and master each day?

The people and energy that I have around me. That motivates me. I once used to be a trained marathon runner back in Japan, and also when my children were between two and seven I was making two seasons a year for my fashion label. These times I felt I was very dedicated to my own motivations, and now I feel like it’s time to do and be motivated for others… I also discovered that I love to talk about people’s work more than my own work. 

Another strong motivation is when I hear each artists’ story, how they make and why they make. I genuinely get so excited and want to share this in the best way I can for them as I know how much they give to each work. I carry lots of artist’s work at Public Record and they feel like part of my family. I want to provide a space that gives their work the credit and context that suits them best and also take good care of their beautiful and precious products. It’s my responsibility, and I want them to be happy to work with us. So I work hard for all of my artists.

From this comes the exchange with my customers, and I work hard to ensure both relationships are thoughtful and gentle. My customers are such beautiful people and it makes me so happy when people feel comfortable and happy in my store. I hope that it brings joy to my community.

How do you juggle all your work responsibilities, stay organised, and have balance?

Being a mum of two gave me lots of practice for staying organised and keeping balanced, and equally having a family gives my work life a healthy routine too.  I also appreciate that they understand my working style, and the support that I get from them when I’m super busy. 

Why did you decide to open in Ponsonby? What’s it like being part of central Auckland?

Ponsonby has been a favourite spot of mine for a long time. I believe Ponsonby has been loved by a wide range of people for a long time, this is the place where you go and have a good time with your family or loved ones. Around here you can feel and experience a mix of goodness. Urban, luxury, authenticity, the new and the old, youth and maturity. I love those juxtaposing elements as well its uniqueness. There is also a great history of some amazing boutiques, cafés and galleries. People around here understand the art and culture well, so I knew this could be a perfect place for me to start my own boutique gallery space to share my visions also build a great community together with the locals. 

What do you find most rewarding about your business?

Creating a platform where I can run many different events, I get to work with many talented people. Their skills and personalities are so fascinating and very encouraging. I work a lot from store, I love to hear people’s reactions when they enter my store, and this feedback really motivates me. It’s not only useful for me, but great to pass on to the artists as well — how people responded to their work. So I share my experience with the artists as well even if it’s small things, so they can also be a part of us!

What’s your attitude to work, and how do you run a successful business?

Having fun with it; it’s a big part of my life. Dedication and kindness to people. Find the point of difference with others. 

 

YOKO SHIMOYAMA, YARN NZ & WONDER JOURNAL STORE, 8 TE ARA TAHUHU, BRITOMART

Yoko Shimoyama, Wonder Journal + YARN NZ, Photo / Karen Ishiguro

From places to pick up a Suntory BOSS Coffee, to spots that have that unique urban energy, we've been popping into some of our must-visit locations in the central city — like Britomart's entrancing Wonder Journal store, owned by Yoko Shimoyama (who also creates premium merino label Yarn NZ, which is stocked at the store and sold in Japan). Taking a break from her busy day, Yoko graciously shared her feelings about working across two markets, staying organised, and her fond memories of Suntory BOSS Coffee.

How do you juggle all your work responsibilities, stay organised, and have balance?

Work efficiency is better in the mornings, so I deal with administrative tasks and reply to messages as quickly as possible to keep things in order. I don't spend too much time on the same task. I try to switch my mind by changing the content of my work throughout the day, such as thinking creatively about new Yarn NZ designs and products, changing the display in the Wonder Journal store, or looking at the works of artists and makers I want to work with in the future.

What motivates you? How do you find the energy and passion to be productive and boss your day?

Seeing the happy faces of our customers is the driving force behind my work. It makes me delighted and thrilled when I see customers visiting my store Wonder Journal and choosing items with a sparkle in their eyes. We often receive messages of delight from people who have purchased clothing from Yarn NZ and become repeat customers because of the quality of the products. Connecting people, things, and culture is what I want to achieve through my business, so what makes me happy and motivates me to move on to the next step is that people like them and are happy to wear them.

Do you have any advice for those out there wanting to be their own boss and start up their own business?

The first thing to do is to take action, even if it is something small. You won't know anything until you try it. Especially when you are stuck in a worry loop, I think the most important thing is to actually try. By being curious and taking action, you will find the direction of what you want to achieve.

What do you find most rewarding about your business?

I love both countries, Japan and New Zealand, so working between the two and getting involved in connecting them, and making people in both countries happy, is the best reward of all.

Could you tell us about your Japanese heritage? What does it mean to you? How do you relate to it?

My childhood experiences and the culture that has been passed down to me, such as seasonal events and closeness to temples and shrines, are ingrained as habits in my life. Also, being kind to others, being humble, and being helpful to others form the foundation of my way of thinking.

Are there any perceptions or traditions about Japanese culture that you want to challenge?

Japanese people are good at expressing themselves in accordance with traditional foundations. But they are also changing and adapting with the times and lifestyles, so I want to convey the real-time changes in Japan that are being produced at the forefront of the current creative process.

Also, being located in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, we are able to dynamically connect people with each other. As a craft organizer, I would like to create new values that will be appreciated by both countries by creating a fusion and chemical reaction between New Zealanders and Japanese people in this age.

Coffee culture is such a big thing in Japan, and it’s famous for canned coffee like Suntory BOSS Coffee, why do you think this is?

Convenience and ease have developed very well in Japan, so I think people liked the idea of being able to buy and drink it immediately whenever they needed it, either hot or cold, at convenience stores or in vending machines. I also think another reason is that manufacturers have increased the variety of products to suit different tastes.

Do you have any memories of Suntory BOSS Coffee from your time in Japan?

I personally have always loved the logo and design. I would drink a canned Suntory BOSS Coffee to refresh myself when I was done with my work. I remember buying a hot canned coffee at the station to warm up my hands while I was waiting for the train, as I was a train commuter myself.

Are you a big coffee drinker yourself?

I love the time I drink coffee. I have two to three cups every day and it is my major relaxation moment at my work.

Where would be your favourite place to take a break and enjoy a Suntory BOSS Coffee?

I would love to have the lovely canned coffees while sitting down in the most beautiful areas of Piha or Waitakere Forests 

Yoko Shimoyama, Wonder Journal + YARN NZ, Photo / Karen Ishiguro

 BEHIND SUNTORY BOSS COFFEE

Famously the number one canned coffee in Japan* Suntory BOSS Coffee launched in 1992 when the heritage company perfected ready-to-drink coffee with “flash brew” method, and put it in a can to make that caffeine hit even more convenient — especially when navigating the country’s many commuter-friendly cities.

Found at konbini (convenience stores) and from the vending machines that can be found on nearly every corner in Japan, the cult range came to Aotearoa a couple of years ago, and was embraced by New Zealanders, who have a mutual appreciation for innovative, fuss-free ideas (and great coffee).

It's available around the country, and is an apt companion for work and leisure alike.


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