Thursday, February 09, 2012

Time for change for Chang's dairy

COLIN SMITH/ The Nelson Mail
END OF AN ERA: Long time owners Grace and Trevor Chang have sold their Tahunanui dairy after running it for more than four decades.

Ask Trevor and Grace Chang what the best part of owning a small family business is and the answer is easy meeting people.

The family have owned NA Chang's Dairy on Tahunanui Drive for more than 50 years so have met their fair share of customers. However, next Tuesday, the shop which Trevor took over from his father will change hands.

"You could say it's the end of an era," Mr Chang said.

His father, Norman, started his first store on Trafalgar St in 1936 before moving out to Tahunanui in 1952 for a quieter life.

"There were only four shops in the area back then," Mr Chang recalled.

The area might have grown but the appeal of owning a convenience store has always remained.

"It's just meeting different people from other cultures and countries," Mrs Chang said. "When the summer season starts there are tourists from all over the world, we will miss it."

They are hoping to spend more time in Wellington with their two children who spent part of their formative years behind the shop counter learning the value of money.

"It meant I was always close to them," Mrs Chang said, "but also the children learned how to meet people and they were both very well behaved because they had to work after school."

The pair met and married in Hong Kong in 1967 when Mr Chang was on holiday. "And Grace has been a prisoner ever since," he said.

The first time they were in the Nelson Mail was early in 1968 when they returned to Nelson.

"There weren't too many Chinese in Nelson then," Mrs Chang said. "So I was a bit of a novelty I think."

The store started out as a fruit and vege shop which sold a few frozen goods. The boom times were when the shop used to supply all the ships coming into the Nelson port.

"In those days we used to work 22 hours a day in peak of season," Mr Chang said. "Sometimes there would be 10 or 12 boats coming in at the same time looking for everything we did it all."

When KFC bought the Kozy Korner Tea Rooms about 20 years ago the owners asked Mr Chang if they would like to take over all their stock the milk, the newspapers and bread, "and we thought why not".

Then last week the same thing happened. A Chinese family, who have been in New Zealand for about a year, came into the store and asked if Trevor wanted to sell. "We pretty much said `sure' and almost signed that day."

The new owners will be on their own next week when Trevor and Grace hand over the keys.

"It's been pretty special, we kept it going," he said. "It has been 72 years this business has been in the family."

Last updated 13:10 26/08/2009

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