Words by Tammy Kuo, photos by Anna Briggs.
“Dogs can’t tell if something is beautiful or ugly. We’re the ones that have to stare at it, so why can’t it look good?”
Amelia Lingonis was bored of seeing clichéd paw prints and bones splattered all over pet homeware and accessories. So she created Smack Bang, the shop where function meets form. With a lifelong love for interior design, Amelia is passionate about making the home joyful and attractive. When she’s not in her shop, she’s baking dog-friendly cookies and cakes, and hanging out with her canine boys Gus (“boofhead and homebody”) and Finn (“confident arsehole… he’ll look cute and happy, tail wagging for strangers, but then he’ll be like – don’t touch me!”).
How do you decide which products make the cut, aesthetically?
It’s like customers overseas are a “tester market”, and we get to see in advance what will make it here in New Zealand. I look at how things are going for Instagrammers across the globe, and I look at how their followers react to their posts. Ideas often take a while to hit our shores, which gives us enough time to refine these ideas, and make it our own. I like to chop and change what I see, and make a product line that adapts to what my customers want.
How has business been since 2020?
Obviously, it’s been a big rollercoaster. But now, every week is surprising us, with how much busier we’re getting. When people are working from home and not travelling, they feel like they can get a dog or cat, and actually be able to spend time with it. Plus, people were spending more time online, seeing cool things that they want on Instagram, and wanting to put cool things on their own Instagram.
- Amelia Lingonis, Smack Bang
- Amelia Lingonis, Smack Bang
What was your leasing experience last year?
My landlord was really good over COVID. I let him know that I had next month’s rent payment but I had no cashflow during lockdown. And he said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll sort this out”, and then offered to bring rent down by 50%, and gave me 12 months to pay it off.
We love seeing commercial landlords that can negotiate a win-win situation with their retailers! Retail NZ are advocating for fairer commercial leasing.
How does Retail NZ help you?
Retail NZ’s extremely helpful! Often it feels like decision makers don’t really care, and we’re left to fight our own battles. But we’re already trying to run a business, and there’s no time to fight these battles ourselves. So we would otherwise have to let things go, but it’s great that Greg and his team are in our corner.
Like when the council was going to close the streets around us, you asked what I thought. Also, the recent merchant fees regulation was great to see, and it wouldn’t have happened without Retail NZ not letting it go.
Getting a regular email from Greg has a real impact, and makes it clear what our next steps should be. It’s great to get that support and clarification.
How’s things going in Smack Bang’s neighbourhood?
We moved to College Street in 2019, we were loving the new location. It is its own little precinct, and turning into one of Welly’s better shopping destinations. There’s Kowtow, Prefab, Moore Wilson’s, Nature Baby and GoodFor. Plus, the new Paddington townhouses will create a further hive of activity for the local retail community. We’re so lucky to get that spot!
And in Wellington, there’s heaps of dog-friendly places, and a strong dog community – there’s meetups, birthday parties for dogs – I’m currently baking two birthday cakes as we speak!
What’s next for Smack Bang?
Pre-COVID plans were to open up a new store in Auckland, but another potential lockdown would be a kick in the guts for biz owners, and I think it’s too risky to open in Auckland right now.
I’ve recently hired a few girls, so that I can have time at home. Most days I was working in the store by myself, and then would come home to do about four hours of baking every night. Now I give myself days off. On those days, I don’t wash my hair on purpose, to force myself to stay inside and recharge! At home, I’ve been getting solid sleep, hanging out with the dogs, enjoying baking, cleaning… it’s been SO good.
We love that for Amelia, and we love seeing how Smack Bang thrives with this vibrant urban space.