If you got this fine invite in the mail and were interested in art, would you go?
Sure you would.

If while there you discovered fine java, professionally catered food and a plethora of fine hifi, would you complain? You surely would not.

That's exactly what Terry Humphries in Hamilton New Zealand banked on. Having been in hifi forever and running Audio Reference NZ with his partner Shane Taylor already, he and his wife wanted to retire in style. To their mind, this didn't mean the porch rocking chairs overlooking grazing sheep but combining their passions into a joint business.

Penny is a painter so an art gallery was called for. Terry is a hifi nut so a stereo boutique was needed. If they wanted people to linger and enjoy, they'd need professional food and drink. So a café was vital. Presto, the concept for Audio Art Café on 1 Green Wood Street in Hamilton 3240 SH1 was born (the lower right shot above is from Tone Mag's article last month).

"You may recall our conversation at the Milan HiFi show in Sept where we talked about our plans to create an Audio Art Café here in New Zealand. Well, we are living out our dream. Our Audio Art Café complex is now well underway, the construction is 99% complete, the new security fence is in place, our logo is proudly hanging on the wall and we have hung the 'opening Feb' banner out. The painters are due to start their part in early Jan so if there are no further delays, we anticipate music to be ringing in the rafters by the 2
nd or 3rd week of Feb 09.

"The le Musician in our logo is a Stratos creation from St. Paul near Nice. He is made of stainless steel and stands 1 meter tall, we loved the way he so beautifully brought Audio and Art together as one concept. We have obtained the Stratos sales rights for NZ and think he will help our clients to capture the concept. Very importantly we were recently blessed to have Hamilton's top restaurateurs pick up the lease for the café operation so we can be sure of a very high standard and we have a number of serious artists on board so are looking forward to seeing the La Mezz Gallery come alive with colourful exhibitions to complete the experience. All going well, we hope to hold a special opening party sometime in March 09.

"I have also included a pic of my personal Brinkmann/Stradivari etc system. This is one of the better musically involving systems I have heard and we spend most evenings listening to all sorts of music with a glass of wine."

Actually, Studio 4 in Terry's home has become the secret by-appointment destination for audiophiles interested in goods beyond what Studios 1 thru 3 in the Audio Art Café host (Cambridge, Exposure, Music Hall and Japanese Tri electronics, Paradigm, Usher and Triangle speakers, Neotech cabling and Loewe TVs in Studio 1; AstinTrew and Primare electronics with Triangle and Usher speakers plus Finite Elemente racks and a Planar projector in Studio 2; and Abbingdon Music Research, Ayre, Bel Canto, Brinkman and Lyngdorf electronics with Finite Elemente Master racks and speakers by Gemme Audio, Lyndorf and Usher in Studio 3).

This image opens to full size in a new window

"We have been open for about 10 weeks or so now. We had our official opening a few weeks ago with over 200 attending. That was a great night. The response to the concept has been wonderful and it's certainly nice to see women enjoying the place including the hifi side too. For the audio industry to survive, we need them to feel comfortable and included in the process. We've had a number of audiophiles from around the country calling in to see what the fuss is all about and what's even better, quite a number of them are already turning into buyers. Even though it's early days still, the positive feedback on the experience we are offering is very encouraging for the future."

Tone Mag's article on the Audio Art Cafe

As that movie put it so hilariously, there's Mexicans and Mexican'ts. Rather than falling in with the gloom and doom crowd, Terry & Co. decided to address the disconnect between having (a plethora of fine audio components) and not having (a broad audience to enjoy it) by creating a crossover venue. The appeal is obvious, cross germination inevitable. Audio Art Café is a creative and hands-on effort to infect more people with an appreciation for how a fine hifi can enhance their quality of life. It gives those not keen on the selection process something to do while their significant other gets geeky with hardware - and it preaches by example that audiophile men caves can become far more hospitable when decorated with art. The La Mezz Art Gallery with its formal show opening calendar meanwhile stands to gain regular local press coverage in the cultural pages. This benefits the hifi studios under the same roof. It's networking in action, so very 21st century. How come the rest of the audio planet still lives in the last century?

I met Terry at the Munich HighEnd 2009 show where he presented me with a DVD of professionally shot images of the store. The following pages reproduce them for your viewing pleasure.