There’s a photo on the back wall of the Crave cafe, of the Auckland provincial rugby team from 1989, back in their glory days when the squad included 18 All Blacks.
It belongs to Jacky Or, the owner of the building and Crave’s landlord, and speaks not only to the cafe’s retro aesthetic, but also to Jacky’s own history and contribution to Auckland’s glory days.
It’s easy to miss the gravitas of a man like Jacky, who quietly goes about his business and slips in and out of the cafe with minimal fuss. But ever since he landed in NZ in 1982 from Hong Kong, Jacky has been making his mark.
Nowhere is that more obvious than in Morningside, where Jacky transformed an old tyre shop to house the new Crave, and has ideas that could see the block next door in Morningside Drive become a new Ponsonby Central. Chatting to Jacky you get the feeling that beneath the exterior of this calm, measured man, is a mind that rarely stops planning.
It’s a mind that is aware of the past as well as the future.
‘I feel we’ve been able to have success in New Zealand,’ Jacky says. ‘There was a lot of help from other people, from the way I grew up in the past. I feel now if I have the opportunity, I think it would be good to give back to the community.’
Jacky wasn’t always a businessman and property developer. He began as a chef, but it was the building of his Magic Wok fast food chain that really signalled Jacky had arrived, not only in Auckland but around the country.
In his own words, he enjoyed being a business owner as much as he did being a chef. But, being a chef at heart, he always wanted to open his own restaurant—not just a fast food chain, but a bona fide yum char restaurant in the city, which is what he did in 2004—China Yum Char in Beach Road.
‘That was my dream to have my own restaurant, and to decorate it the way I want,’ says Jacky. ‘For a lot of people who start their own restaurant, it’s not about how much return you get, it’s all about how I’m going to do something different.’
At the same time, Jacky had interests in other businesses—among them, building cemeteries, and developing properties like the one at 6 McDonald Street, Morningside. It’s from the old tyre shop that he first noticed Crave cafe, quietly building its clientele across the road.
‘It was a small, tiny shop. I occasionally had coffee there and I slowly learned their kind of charity business, so I went to see them. I said, you know it seems you guys are doing well, but there’s not enough space. What if I offer you something here?
‘And we started something—their dream to have somewhere that community can come along and enjoy together.’
It was no small task. A lot of money, time and effort, on Jacky’s part, went into making the building fit for the new Crave. It’s fair to ask why he thought it was worth it.
‘It’s not really a matter of thinking about a return—it’s more about thinking it might be a good thing to do.’
And for Jacky personally, there’s also a sense of pride, especially as he’s sitting in the cafe and sees that it’s full to capacity and we can barely hear one another speak for the noise of people having lunch.
‘Yeah, I enjoy this part,’ Jacky says. ‘Occasionally I have overseas visitors or friends, and I always invite them to come in here.’