Rouge Café changes hands

There is much to smile about as Phil MacKay ponders a post-Rouge future for he and his wife, Alana.

The MacKays are widely regarded as being among the town’s young power couples. Even as they toiled tirelessly over the past eight plus years to build Rouge from zero to hero, they also redirected a respectable slice of their profits back into the community and embroiled themselves in business and civic affairs.

Phil is currently president of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, and says the sale of Rouge won’t impact his role.

“I remain committed to Cambridge and the Chamber of Commerce,” he said.  “I may just have to join under a new company when I work out what my next adventure looks like. Right now, there isn’t a Plan B … but I have every intention of retaining my membership.”

Conversations around selling have been ongoing for a while, he explained, really because both he and Alana think that eight and a half years running a business is a long time, particularly in the hospitality game.   It has demanded a lot of them – years of early starts in a seven-day operation, with days off seldom coinciding and shared holidays a treasured rarity.

They will remain at Rouge until Christmas, ensuring that new owner James Zheng and his crew will have a solid start to their tenure, then it’s off to Taupo for a well-earned short break before coming back to regroup.

“Cambridge is where we want to be. I have a number of ideas floating around, but we haven’t committed to anything yet,” he said.  “Right now, it might be nice to just spend some quality time together!”

Phil started in hospitality after a university stint working in a Hamilton eatery played Cupid with his career choice. He dropped out of doing a degree in electronic commerce and headed for the hospitality world fulltime.  Meanwhile, he and future wife Alana McCathie were tripping to and from her home in Cambridge, enjoying the village vibe and assessing the potential to make something work for them locally.

In the end, they brought Alana’s event management skills and Phil’s experience together when they opened Rouge Café in June 2009, taking over an Empire St building which had previously housed a hairdressing salon. Helping them along the way were Alana’s parents and brother.

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