Brian and Dolly Mitchell retiring after 26 years
The iconic Uawa Foodmarket is under new management with Brian and Dolly Mitchell retiring after 26 years. The Tolaga Bay couple reflect on their years at the shop with Shaan Te Kani.
It’s the end of one era . . . and the beginning of another. For the past 26 years, Brian and Dolly Mitchell have owned and managed The Uawa Foodmarket, affectionately known as ‘Dolly’s’ to the locals.
Now the couple have retired and sold the shop to the Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence.
“Time to move on,” says Dolly.
“There are a lot more things we’d like to do, so we haven’t completely retired. We’ve just slowed down a bit.”
Running a foodmarket in a tight-knit community, you get to know everyone, says Dolly.
In reflecting on their years of working at the shop, she says the biggest highlight has been the community.
“Everybody wants food, so they come and buy food. You catch up with everybody, and find out about what’s happening in the community.
“The people are a big highlight, the tamariki, the hellos every morning and every afternoon.”
Prior to running the shop, the couple ran a farm for 24 years and raised a family.
“People have often said to me ‘why didn’t you do the shop earlier?’,” said Dolly.
“I said no. I would never trade farming and bringing up a family on the farm, for bringing up a family in a shop.
“You’ve got the freedom out there on the farm. But you’re quite limited to what you can do with your family in the shop. Especially your hours with your family, and your quality time with your family.”
Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence now manages the store. It is an iwi-led trust that assists in the administration of projects happening in the Te Aitanga a Hauiti region.
“They have done such a wonderful job of changing the shop around, it’s awesome,” says Dolly.
“Brian and I do wish them and their team well. Many blessings for many years to come.”
Alison Waru is the new manager of the shop, and is also the project co-ordinator of Uawanui, which is a waterways sustainability project for Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence.
Alison says the couple have served their people well through the shop and in many aspects of the community.
“Everyone knows Brian and Dolly,” says Alison.
“They had their names written on the shop front door, and when we took over ownership, they blacked it out.
“I said, ‘why did you take your names off?’, and Dolly said, ‘because we don’t own it anymore’.
“That was something for us to get over because we are so used to them being here, Dolly and Brian.
“They are really happy to move on and have some time for themselves. They even went and did their shopping for themselves yesterday and not for the shop. It’s little things like that, which are big things to them.
“Because they’ve sacrificed a lot of their life to make this business a success.
“With the Te Aitanga a Hauiti Centre of Excellence taking over, we’re just going to build on that success.
“It will keep running as a shop. There might be a couple of surprises coming along, but it will be all to benefit the community and the iwi.
“Over the years Brian and Dolly have done a lot for the community. They were heavily involved in the Save the Wharf restoration, and so many other community projects.
“They used to organise the Christmas parade. When there was a sausage sizzle at the school, they would always give bread out of their freezers, and donate meat.
“We’re going to carry that whakaaro (concept) on as well.”
The community hosted a morning tea party for the couple outside the shop recently. It was a chance to thank Brian and Dolly for their 26 years of service.
Alison says they cannot thank them enough for the community contribution that they have made, and continue to make.
While their smiling faces at the counter will be missed, the intention is to continue that same manaakitanga (hospitality).
But the couple won’t be too far away.
“They always come in and get their paper,” said Alison.
“And they will come in and make a cuppa. It’s good for them to be able to still come in and relax, and still be part of the shop. And for us to pick their brains.
“Their mokopuna Taylor is still working here as well, because she knows the running of everything. Taught by her Nanny and Papa.”
Dolly says they love the positivity that the foodmarket has brought to their lives.
“Like everything, you always have good and bad, but there is always more good than bad.
“We try to do as much as we can for the community, and we will continue to do so because it’s our home and our heart.”