29 April 2022
By Millie Pidwell
When I think of Miss Gee’s I picture a heaving dance floor, gorgeous cocktails, a bright and funky décor, and Ashleigh Gee who owns and operates this popular city centre bar and restaurant and is the backbone of the energetic atmosphere Miss Gee’s exudes.
As with all businesses and their owners, there is so much more than meets the eye. When I sat down to chat with Ash about her business, her background, and some of the challenges she has faced and overcome since opening Miss Gee’s 3 years ago, I was in awe of Ash’s grit, determination, positivity, and drive to succeed and see her vision come to life for not only herself but for Tauranga as a whole.
Picture this…. in 2017 Ash moves to Tauranga after 12 years working in real estate in Taranaki and later in Brisbane Australia. She recognises that Tauranga doesn’t offer many opportunities for 20–40-year-olds to meet each other. Ash, and a group of friends start a social networking group called Initiate which quickly grows to 3000 followers here in the Bay. Ash meets hundreds of young locals all wanting more opportunities and spaces in the city to meet others, socialise, drink, eat and dance…. there is nowhere that offers house and electronic music regularly. Ash met Sean Murray, a local DJ with a wealth of music and entertainment knowledge and the two of them dream what they could create in the city centre. When the former Nomad restaurant goes up for sale in Masonic Park, Ash takes a leap of faith and buys the site for a new business venture…. Miss Gee’s Bar and Restaurant.
Miss Gee’s opened in 2019 and it didn’t take long for people across Tauranga to start talking about the newest bar in Tauranga. Everything Ash had planned for, researched, strategized, and imagined had come to life in Miss Gee’s…. then 5 months after opening, everything changed. The impact of Covid19 and New Zealand going into an 8-week lockdown seemed insurmountable to overcome. Ash realised that she needed to use the time in lockdown to work on an entirely new business model. She spent the time re-researching, re-strategizing, speaking with mentors, and perhaps most importantly, continuing to engage with the public. She mostly did this by staying front of mind with people via social media and online house parties and DJ sets to ensure she still had a business when we came out of the first Covid19 lockdown.
This is what is so inspiring about Ash, she didn’t let anything stop her. She had to learn to be a restauranteur as well as a bar owner, she trained her staff to be on the floor providing customers with excellent service, she completely changed and grew her food menu…. people could no longer stand at the bar or dance in crowds you see, which was originally the main attraction of Miss Gee’s. This was heart-breaking for Ash, but she held her head high and pivoted, as so many business owners across the world had to….and continue to do.
Ash is forever reacting to change, she’s not afraid to ask for help, it’s clear she has an incredible network of friends, staff, and mentors around her, and she has certainly made the most of what she calls “a sh**t situation”. Ash’s vision and passion stretches beyond Miss Gee’s, she’s providing events and a great social space for people, because “Tauranga deserves a great CBD”.
Images of Ashleigh and Eli and of DJ Sean Murray by UNO Magazine.