I grew up in Wellington but have been a resident in Parnell for 25 years. I work for the Masfen Group, a privately owned property company with a substantial commercial property portfolio in Parnell. Parnell is my home so I have a vested interest in Parnell as a community and business hub.
I have two children and recently opened a homeware store with my sister which fulfils my passion with interiors and creativity. I have always enjoyed the mixture of old and new, I love antiques, in fact I have quite the obsession!
My favourite way of spending my free time is probably outside in nature, in the water, or on a mountain….
The best piece of advice I have ever received, is that nothing worth having ever comes easy.
Belinda: Steve, you established ASC Salon in 2016 in Parnell together with your wife Andrea. You both have over 25 years of experience in this industry, starting your journey in Auckland followed by a seven-year stint in London before coming back here with the goal of setting up your own salon. What led you to this industry and what did you hope to achieve when you set about choosing your career?
Steve: Photography was my first passion but I had been exposed to the creative side of the hair industry when a girl friend had been a hair model. So my initial plan was to qualify as a hairdresser to then use as a travelling occupation (London was always in my sights) whilst establishing myself as a photographer. But I soon fell in love with hairdressing and only kept photography as a hobby. One of the great things about my industry is the many options it offers. Most people just think of the traditional hairdresser standing behind a chair but this job has taken me all over the world. Initially I was not sure which direction I wanted to take so I had a crack at it all – magazine work, stage presentations, educating, mentoring and of course being a salon stylist.
Belinda: I have lived in Parnell for many years as you know. When our children were young, we went to the French Markets on Saturday mornings for crepes & freshly squeezed orange juice. I love the hustle and bustle of the market plus the fact that this iconic piece of Parnell is forever changing.
As a resident I feel part of a community that is friendly and kind. We have recently got a puppy so we are out and about more and everyone you pass says hello and stops to chat, there is no other neighbourhood I would rather be in.
In terms of the customers you see in your salon, what do you think defines the people of Parnell?
Steve: The amazing thing we have learned about our new clientele, who are mainly local people, is that they really care about what’s happening in their area, they love to shop local and are insanely loyal. Parnell is a really a village community, every time I step outside the salon I bump into someone. We constantly have clients bumping into friends or making new friends in the salon.
Belinda: How important is customer service in your industry?
Steve: When we started in this industry all you needed was the a high level cutting and colouring skills to make a successful salon but now it’s easier to find skilled hairdressers. So apart from having to be extremely good communicators you need to provide more than just a pretty environment.
For the first 20 years of our career Andrea and I had the experience of managing other people’s business both in New Zealand and London which gives you great insight into what does and does not work. It was in London that we were exposed to some of the world’s most high profile and luxurious salons. So when it came to designing our own space we had the foresight of everyone else’s successes, but more importantly their mistakes.
With sustainability in mind steel was the right surface material to work with. But obviously it can be cold and hard so with the help of award winning talent from design company Material Creative, all the soft touches of plush velvet, plants and the preservation of the historical heritage, created a warm, welcoming and inspiring environment.
From the moment you enter you are met with a “galaxy” like Venetian plastering technique, (which at the time was the only one like it in NZ), and hand blown blush pendants. Upstairs, which is where we do all our colour work, we wanted to create a lounge-like atmosphere. You will find a corner sofa to relax in whilst your colour is processing, a bar to be coloured at so you don’t have to stare at yourself in the mirror, an eclectic book shelf and house plants. Being on the second floor not only has sea views but great light, and no one can look in the window whilst your head is full of foil.
Belinda: Part of the sustainable vision you have for your business is also using products which are sulphate, Paraben and cruelty free. How important is this becoming to your customers?
Steve: It’s important not just because more people really care about the future we are leaving for our children but it can also be a deciding factor as to whether a new client will choose you over the salon down the road. I know this, because clients have told me so after reading about our personal sustainability initiative on our website.
Belinda: I have always seen Parnell as an eclectic mix of old and new, a home and design hub. Of course you are my favourite spot in Parnell, because I always walk out looking and feeling better! But we also have some great jewellers in Parnell. My favourite is Sutcliffe, Brent the owner learnt his trade in London, and we are lucky to have a world class jeweller in Parnell.
When it comes to restaurants, Pasture is outstanding, both the food & the service. World class. Close to home, I could not do without FAV in Gladstone Road. It’s a mini deli and fruit shop. Raj the owner is always happy to get in anything you need & it’s my go-to for meal essentials.
Tell me – what do you think Parnell excels at?
Steve: One of the major factors we considered before moving to Parnell, was the fact that we already knew the high street was mainly run by owner operators, which always makes for a better shopping district. The local Parnell business owners take great interest in what opens around them and are all looking for something of a very high calibre, a special offering that will attract more people to the area.
We were also aware that Parnell only really has a few key landlords which is an immensely important factor as they control the flow of new business to the area. What you really need, (which we have), is a landlord with a vision they will stick to even through the tough times, and not compromise on the quality of tenants.
Belinda: Your thoughts on how Parnell has ‘coped’ through COVID and your thoughts on the suburb moving forward.
Steve: Having a connected community from top to bottom is really important. COVID has really highlighted this. COVID was obviously an incredibly tough time for our business model. One of the first phone calls I received was from our landlord offering their support and then followed the flood of calls and messages from clients. It’s was really incredibly heart-warming that the guests weren’t just worried about their grey roots but the survival of our business.
Steve: We even had guests offering to prepay to help with our lack of cashflow. Then when we reopened we wanted to give back to our family of guests by ensuring everyone was seen to as quickly as possible, which meant some seriously long hours which didn’t go unnoticed. Most days we even had food deliveries from our guests.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good landlord and 2020 really highlighted this. To many people it looks like they are simply hiring space, but the relationship needs to be more of a partnership. You need to know they have your best business interests in mind. You need to do your due diligence. We had known Rolf and Belinda for 19 years before we opened, (which may be a rather extreme due diligence), but getting to know them and their family values meant we knew our family business was safe with the Masfen Group.
Belinda: I do think COVID has definitely affected Parnell Road. Parnell has always been a tourist destination and some of the shops that catered for this market have needed to close. It is my view landlords need to take a long-term view on this when tenanting their empty shops, we need quality retailers that complement each other and work towards a more cohesive plan going forward.
I would like to continue to add value to the streetscape. To keep the integrity and character of older buildings and make newer spaces interesting and functional. Building strong relationships with tenants is crucial as ultimately it is a partnership with tenant/landlord.
Do you think Parnell has the opportunity to start a new narrative? If so, what should our new narrative be?
Steve: I honestly don’t think they should. Let all the other districts compete for the same space and constantly try to reinvent themselves. Parnell should stick being the art and jewellery mecca of Auckland, with all the best boutique services and retail to accompany this.
Belinda: I would certainly like to see an improvement on Parnell Road, Parnell Road is the heart of Parnell & would like to see more alfresco dining and tree’s, boutiques and top-notch restaurants and cafes. And a large deli/mini supermarket such as Farro somewhere in Parnell. St Georges Bay Road is a sitter for this.
What would you wish to see in Parnell that we don’t yet have?
Steve: Definitely some sort of food retailer, like a high-end deli but bigger.
Belinda: You know I have an obsession with antiques, what’s an object you’d never part with?
Steve: I have three (not really objects to be fair). My wife Andrea who is also my CFO, PA and Uber driver to our daughters, Isabella our 14 year old, who unless we are surfing together, or she wants money, ignores me, and Lyla-May (aka mouse) who is 11 and treats our business as if it’s hers.
TOP PHOTO CAPTION:
Photo caption: Belinda Masfen and Steve Cockle photographed in ASC Salon, Belinda seated on Venetian armchair available from Alfresco.
ARTICLE: als0 published in Verve, 13 May 2021.
CELEBRATING THE RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES IN PARNELL