12:00AM Monday July 25, 2005 By Owen Hembry
Fruit World managing director Ronald Chan in his Ponsonby, Auckland, fruit shop.
The annual Roger Davies Trophy for services to horticulture has been awarded to a greengrocer who started selling fruit and vegetables to Aucklanders more than 50 years ago. Ronald Chan started work in his father's Auckland fruit and vegetable shop aged 13 after immigrating to New Zealand with his family in 1949 - 56 years later his Fruit World franchise has 19 stores and growing. Most people would call it a day after 56 years but at nearly 70, Chan still gets up in the dark six days a week to buy the freshest fruit and vegetables he can find at market - and looking 20 years younger than he should - he doesn't plan on retiring. "It's my hobby, my life, my dream forever," he said. "This industry is mine, it's me." The trophy was established by horticulture produce distributor Turners and Growers to commemorate the contribution of the late Roger Davies to the industry. Davies was president of the Kerikeri Fruitgrowers Association and was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to horticulture. Nominations are open to anyone involved in the manufacture, supply or sale of horticulture produce, with winners decided by the Turners and Growers board of directors. The winner must show leadership, enthusiasm, determination and innovation in achieving a project or development beneficial to the industry. In 1973 Chan and two partners won the contract to run the fruit and vegetable section of 3Guys retail chain. Their constant appearance at meetings with founder Albert Gubay left Chan pondering whether they were in fact the inspiration for the store's name. A break from greengrocery in 1986 took Chan to Hong Kong to try his hand at the jewellery business. But the grocery trade was in his blood and he was soon back in New Zealand looking to challenge the supermarkets with the co-founding of Vegie World in 1991. In 2001 he founded Fruit World before quickly expanding it to 19 stores around Auckland and Hamilton. An earlier meeting with Foodtown founder Tom Ah Chee inspired him to find a way to compete. "He said to me in 1970, by 1980 there will be no more fruit shops," he said. "But I am so happy the fruit shop still survives [and] we still make a good living out of it." Rather than hide from the supermarkets, Chan targets locations beside them, encouraging the shopper to walk just a little further to buy their fruit and vegetables. "We have to be better before [customers] come to us," he said. "We've got to be better, cheaper and fresher." A motivation to succeed still gets him to the market as early as 3am six days a week to buy the best quality at the best price. Chan demands a seven-days-a-week commitment from anyone wanting to own a Fruit World franchise. "If you don't love what you do, don't be in the game. You won't be successful." Although he lives and breathes the fruit and vegetable trade Chan does have another passion - performing Chinese opera. Not surprisingly his favourite role is as the emperor. The Winner * What: The Roger Davies Trophy. * Who : 2005 Winner, Ronald Chan, managing director Fruit World. * Why: For his contribution to the fruit and vegetable