Not long ago I talked with Tina Kerr and daughter Michaela Kerr from Good Vibes Coffee and wrote a story about their amazing little coffee van and the good vibes philosophy they stand by.
After our interview, Tina suggested that I talk with Vladimir Miller, owner of The Hub in Trentham.
And in the spirit of writing stories and meeting our amazing Huttonians, I followed this lead, this new road to see where it would take me – who might I meet?
I found the road led me to some of the nicest, most generous people.
A coffee owner who has opened his café doors to the rest of the community – and has created a place where everyone belongs. Who has created this café, The Hub, which literally is a hub for people to meet and feel welcome, for people to get what they need whether it’s clothing, food, coffee, a chat. It is a real community where the reciprocity flows from inside The Hub onto the street and into the hearts of everyone who sets foot inside its doors.
And on top of that, The Hub also promotes several charities from its premises. One that could be considered The Heart of The Hub. And when Vladimir tells me the story behind this charity I almost burst into tears because I see in the flesh the cycle of love continues. Right before my very eyes.
Meet: Vladimir Miller
Owner of The Hub Café and Op Shop at 496 Ferguson Drive in Trentham
What’s The Hub all about?
‘The Hub is designed to be a hangout. A place that people can come from anywhere, from all walks of life. Mums, dads with or without children. It’s a place where they can get a good bargain and be able to relax as well. Not be tense. We want kids to be kids. Run around, explore. That’s what they like to do.’
I do feel relaxed. And I can’t help but notice the constant cheerful laughing from the people sitting at the new record-style tables. I feel at home here, and I feel welcome.
‘Our kids’ books are 50c and all our toys are 20c. We have a kid’s corner. So, it’s all there for people just to relax. A lot of places aren’t designed to be like this.
Vladimir tells me how he’s set the prices to be affordable for everyone.
‘Whether you’re on a pension, whether you are on a low income, we want anyone to be able to get a good bargain. Because everything’s been given to us, it’s all free, there’s no point putting a high top-dollar on it. It helps turn the stock, and everyone loves a good bargain. If it’s worth a dollar, it’s worth a dollar. There’s no point popping it up to $5.’
When can people donate items to The Hub?
‘For anyone who wants to donate items to us, we ask they do so during store hours. We’re open Monday to Friday 5am to 3pm and Saturday 8am to 3pm.
‘We open bright and early so we can provide coffees for commuters. We have ‘text a coffee’ so they can text it through and receive it by the time they’ve requested. It makes it easy.’
He tells me how through The Hub they promote healthy living, provide a place for people to come in and relax. Get away from stress and the busyness of life – just chill out.
‘We have signs that say, ‘Please relax on couches’. It creates a home environment that people can just get away from the everyday bustle and just chill out. Even if they don’t want to buy anything they can relax here.
‘We’ve had people crying, for all different things. That’s cool with us because it’s the customers that make the business. It’s the business owner that creates the atmosphere, but it’s an open invitation for them to come in.
‘The Hub’s a place where you can feel at home.’
‘Talk about feeling at home!’ The blonde-haired woman, Anna, pipes up as she indicates for me to lift my feet up so she can grab the vacuum cord from beneath my size 10 runners.
Vladimir tells me how they use Ripe as their coffee distributor which is based in Petone. How they don’t charge for extra shots or flavourings or different kinds of milk. It’s just a standard price of $4.50 for a regular and $5.50 for a large.
‘We try to keep it all the same. And if you need an extra pick-me-up we’ll chuck that in there for free.’
The Hub also serves $1 waffles – and you can decorate them yourself. They’re every day on school holidays, which is a huge hit. And during terms, $1 waffles are sold on Saturdays.
‘We are The Hub for every family to come in and actually have a good time. That’s what we want.
‘We have a free clothes give away once a month on a Saturday. With that, we get a lot of clothes that come in. We thought, ‘Everyone loves free items’. So, we decided to just give it out for free. Some people who can’t afford clothes they can come and get clothes. We get people from far and wide. That’s what we’re here for. We get a lot of labelled clothes. Everyone loves something that’s free. They all love bargains, and they’re being acknowledged as well.’
How did The Hub come about?
Vladimir tells me how before The Hub came to be, the business space, also a café, was owned by another owner. And then Vladimir took it over and revamped the whole thing.
There’s more to the story though.
‘Back some years I studied youth development training and so went to Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. In that training, we talked about how in every young person there’s a third space in their life. There’s the first place, the home, where they feel safe, loved; the second place is school where they belong they have friends; and then there’s a third place whether it’s a nightclub, bar, café, community group – whatever.
‘So, with that training of four and a half years traveling the Pacific I was like, ‘How can I bring this into one location?’
And with all Vladimir’s training, he created a community, a space where anyone can come and feel safe, feel they belong, feel accepted.
‘That’s our heart here. It’s a place for everyone. For those who like op shopping, for those who like coffee. And there’s no one else really doing this the same.’
Vladimir goes on to tell me how through The Hub they raise money for several charities, but there is one that’s especially close to The Hub’s heart.
‘Our charity of our choice is called ‘To Russia with Love Aid Project’. It was developed in 2000. When Anna (points at the lovely blonde-haired woman who removed the vacuum cord from beneath my feet) and her husband adopted two kids from Russia they saw the condition of these orphanages and from that, they developed this charity.
So, wait, so through this charity, you’ve sponsored two children?
Do they live here, or do they…
‘You’re speaking to one of them.’
Oh my god! Wow!
My eyes well up with tears as I see right before me the cycle of love continuing from Anna, Vladimir’s mum, and her husband – and how the love they poured into Vladimir and his sister has grown into the selflessness and generosity of what I’m experiencing now at The Hub.
‘So that’s been going on since 2000. From that adoption, they saw the conditions in which these kids lived and they looked at how they could help from New Zealand. And from New Zealand through this organisation they collect clothes and other aid. Contacts in various countries distribute the aid to orphanages and others who are in needy situations.
Me: (Pointing at beanies in a basket with a sign $3) So people knit these beanies, you sell them and the money goes to the children?
‘Yes. It’s been going on for years and years, and…’
(I still can’t get off this topic) So you and your sister came here from Russia?
‘It was 21 years ago this year.’
And that’s your mum (pointing at the same lovely blonde-haired lady, Anna, who pulled the vacuum cord from beneath my feet)?
‘Yes. From that, that charity was set up (To Russia with Love Aid Project).’
So, your mum and dad set that up? That’s her charity (pointing to mum again)?
‘Yeap. This is my business, but we’ve added the family charity into it. People collect all through New Zealand, and we provide aid throughout several countries now. Wherever there is a financial need or clothing, we’ll just send it off.
‘We’ve also tapped into the Dugdale Charitable Trust, which is here in Trentham. And they are also our landlords. They’ve done amazing projects throughout New Zealand and with other charities. One of their current ones they’ve helped fund a school in Uganda at a grassroots level.’
And now The Hub is supporting the Dugdale Charitable Trust to fund a school through The Stationery Appeal. It only costs $15 for one child to have their stationery supplies for a term. What’s more, they’ve already raised $1000 through The Hub, which has supplied a lot of kids with stationery.
‘It’s worked really well. So, we’ll just keep that going. And then as that school develops we’ll do other things.
‘It’s what we’re here for. We’re not just here with affordable pricing. We want to make sure we help people throughout the world and within our community. We tap into other things to see what’s going on in the community too.
Vladimir tells me how a primary school in Trentham made a big book plead to the community. And how The Hub just called them and said, ‘Come on down here. We have boxes of books.’ And how the local karate team was looking for karate uniforms. At just the right time they had had a brand-new set come in – so they just donated the set to them.
‘It’s so easy. It’s all been given for free already so why not continue that momentum as well. It’s peoples’ generosity that keeps this going. It’s the atmosphere that’s created from that. I think it’s something that will take off.
‘I never thought I’d have my own business. I thought I would just continue working in youth development throughout the Pacific, that would be my life, but no.’
I don’t think you could have thought of this idea without your background.
‘Yes. It’s a lot of work mentally being told you’re adopted. That lives with you being told that and knowing that you’re the only one from your birth family in New Zealand. It’s from that you can either take the positive or the negative. You’ve got to take the positive though. It’s something that’s important. And for me, that’s why The Hub is so important. If you’re from all walks of life, you can come down here.
‘And at The Hub, you feel this sense of belonging. You can be part of the furniture.’
The Hub also supports other businesses with their community wall. They get a lot of cards that come through so they rotate the stock.
‘I love it. It’s what gets me up in the morning. You don’t know who’s going to turn up. From all walks of life, if they had a really bad day, or if they got the dream job they wanted. You just don’t know who’s going to turn up. But to know that there’s a safe place here, a place where they can belong and feel welcome, that makes all the difference.’
For The Hub, it’s not all about numbers and dollars and cents. For them, it’s about looking at the individual that’s in the store as a person, and finding out how can they serve that person to the best they can – that’s pretty cool.
‘I’m only 25, and I wouldn’t think a 25-year-old would be doing something like this! The community has taken it well. That’s what’s helped. The community has said, ‘We love what you’re doing. We love what’s going on. We want to support you.’
‘And this is working really well. Without the community support, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing.’
Visit The Hub
Address: 496 Fergusson Drive, Trentham
Phone: 027 306 4816