Como Santa Gertrudis

Posted on July 24, 2011

Rachael Lynch has enjoyed a successful career in retail, both in the UK and abroad, starting off on the ground level writing labels and performing basic admin duties before working her way through the ranks to become one of the most influential players on the high street. She decided to leave all this behind her at the start of the year and move to Ibiza, where she has become a partner in the stunning Como, a restaurant and cool meeting place in Santa Gertrudis. In the first of a series of interviews with Rachel and fellow owner Menno, we shine the light on the talented retailer and find out what drove her to give up her glittering career in favour of a change of pace and new challenge in Ibiza…

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What was your background prior to moving to Ibiza?
I’ve worked in retail for over 20 years and have covered everything really. I started off as a buyers clerk literally with no background or degree or anything, starting out as the person that wrote out the labels and the most basic admin stuff and worked up to buying director for Etam, who had about 200 shops on the high street. I then went to work for Etam France and was based in Paris for two years working on the French side of the business.

I left Etam about 8 years ago now and ran my own boutique in London for about 6 months, which was owned by Ronnie O’Sullivan, the snooker player, in some sort of bizarre twist I ended up running a boutique for him. I spent a few months off travelling the Far East before returning to work in Manchester doing mail order for Shop Direct, which is the biggest mail order company in the UK with a turnover of around two billion a year, owned by the Barclay Brothers. So really I have been involved in all aspects of retail, I primarily specialized in women’s wear, women’s high street, mass-market stuff but I’ve also covered everything else you can imagine.

I went from there to BHS, to work for Philip Green back in London, I had been in Manchester for two years and, while I absolutely loved it, I wanted to come back and work in London again. I was there for about five years as trading director for BHS and left there in January. So really it’s twenty years of all aspects of retail, from designing, marketing and advertising campaigns etc.

Ibiza must be a shock to your system after working for so many large companies?
I deliberately wanted a different pace of life, it’s like I’ve been there and I did that and have no inclination to do it again, I’ve worked for two of the biggest companies in the UK, where else was I going to go. I’d just be doing the same thing again and I knew I wanted to do something completely different.

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What made you choose Ibiza?
I’ve been coming to Ibiza on holiday since 1987, when the whole house scene took off and I’ve been coming back once or twice a year ever since. I have friends here and I always had in the back of my mind that one day I would come and live here so I finally decided to make it reality.

How did your involvement in Como come about?
It was all done in quite a round about way. I came over last September and at the time I was looking to buy somewhere to live over here, thinking that I wouldn’t leave England initially. Basically I thought that I wouldn’t be able to buy somewhere over here unless I continued with my job in England. I was thinking I would buy somewhere over here, rent it out and then I would have somewhere as a sort of bolt hole when I needed it, with the view that at some point in the future I would make my way over here but I would start to put some sort of roots down by getting a place. I came over in September to look at some places and didn’t find anything that I liked, I came to Santa Gertrudis and Como had just opened and Menno, who was a close friend of mine from Ibiza anyway – we’ve known each other for about five years and he has been over to England to see me – had just got this place going a couple of months earlier and, without going into all the details, he was looking for a business partner because things hadn’t quite worked out with his original partner, so, as I hadn’t found a house to buy, we agreed that I would use that money to go into partnership here instead.

What was your level of involvement at that point?
The plan at that point was that I would be a silent partner and continue my work in England and come over once a month to work with Menno on the bigger picture stuff and not any of the day to day running of Como – in terms of how it looks, doing the business plan etc and so we left it pretty much like that at the end of last year. So, I left my job in January and went for a weeks holiday in India – the classic I’ll go and find myself – I booked a weeks yoga retreat, as I say I was really stuck in my job and I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I didn’t want to go back and work in London again and I wasn’t going to panic, so I thought I’d take myself off to India where I didn’t have to listen to anyone else’s opinions or advice and I plonked myself on the beach, did a yoga retreat and decided what I was going to do next.

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Was it at this point that you decided to move to Ibiza full time?
When I got to India I thought, it’s January and it’s 30 degrees and I’m sat on a beach, why am I going back to London in a weeks time when I haven’t got a job to go back for? I decided to stay in India for three months, until the end of the British winter, give myself some breathing space and literally go with the flow and see what happens. At some point I will decide what to do but I’m not going to put a gun to my own head and rush back. I was lucky that I had enough money to be able to do it and you can live cheaply in India. Then I thought, this is really obvious, sometimes two and two makes four. I have a partnership in a restaurant in Ibiza, when the season finishes in April in India, when the monsoon comes, is when the build up to the summer season is starting in Ibiza. Why don’t I go and work with Menno for the summer? It will be the first summer of the restaurant and while you can employ people to work for you and to do stuff, however good they are, they will never put the same amount of passion and commitment into it that you would yourself. I knew that Menno would be on his own and so it would be an extra pair of hands, so I phoned him up and said do you need an extra waitress for the summer?

How did the boutique idea come about?
I came straight from England to Ibiza with the intention of working for the summer and to help get things moving for the first year and that’s when things started to evolve to the next level for me. After about two weeks of me sitting around with my feet up on the beach thinking actually I’m not ready to retire just yet and I can probably do a bit more than just helping out with the waitressing, I thought we could put a couple of cabinets at the back of the restaurant and buy some bits of jewellery and some gift items. There are loads of places that do it here already and I’ve seen myself, in between courses or after dinner, having a wander in a good mood and feeling like spending some money or buying a present for somebody. So I though I’d buy a few gift items that we can have in cabinets at the back of the restaurant and about a week later I realised that I’d bought about 500 dresses and about 1000 bags! My retail background just took over, it wasn’t really a stretch for me to be able to do it. I didn’t start off with any kind of business plan and it wasn’t about making a load of money but it just happened. I’m sitting scratching my head saying I want to live in Ibiza but I’m not sure how I’m going to make an income and thought well actually what am I really good at, why can’t I just do that here?

Watch this space for part two of our exclusive interview as we catch up with Menno, founding partner of Café Como and learn how he practically built the place with his own bare hands…

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