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Eighteen years at the Village Cafe

August 7, 2020 August 2020 No Comments

It is back to the farm for some well deserved R&R for Chris Petersen and Bruce Laurence after eighteen years at the helm of The Village Café in the heart of Martinborough.  Following the recent sale of the café  these talented hospitality legends want  to  take  time to re-focus and re-fresh ready for their next adventure.

Both were born and bred in rural New Zealand. Chris in Eketahuna and Bruce in Eltham, so their love of small towns is no surprise 

Chris has been in hospitality all his life, first starting as a waiter in Scotland before returning to New Zealand and taking a chefs apprenticeship in the early 80’s at the highly regarded Settlement restaurant in Willis Street, Wellington. 

Bruce’s first job in 1980 was at Government House in Wellington.  Firstly as footman during Sir Keith Holyoake’s term, and then as valet to Sir David Beattie.  After three years he left for the Wellington hospitality trade where he met Chris.    

Some time later a year in Australia was planned which extended to eighteen years and three restaurants later.  Their time  in Victoria was spent  in both  Melbourne and Walhalla with a few overseas trips to Europe between restaurants.  

Bruce also found time to study and gained his qualification in Architecture Technology. He worked  for seven years in architecture  before the call of the café surfaced once more.  In July 2002, after the sale of their latest restaurant,  they came  home to New Zealand to visit family and on a road trip  to Wellington they made an unplanned detour to  Martinborough.  They had heard of the Wine Centre and purchased several boxes of wine to take back.  Quite by chance, after returning to Australia, Chris’ sister contacted them to let them know that the Village Café was being advertised for sale.   After some thought and a six month negotiation they returned to Martinborough as the new owners.  

Takeover date was the 1 February 2003 which happened to be  Martinborough Fair Day and was a real baptism of fire. They were more organised for the  following Fair day in March and the café started providing breakfast which was  very successful. By the time the Round Vines Day arrived they were humming! 

After eighteen years of seven days a week, negotiations began for the sale of the business and  was completed in early July.  Bruce and Chris  hung up their aprons and look forward to the next phase of their lives. “Life is too short and we will take some months off to get the garden in shape and plan what’s next.  And it won’t be hospitality!” quips Chris.

First on the list is to spend time on their small lifestyle block at Kahuhtara. Gardening is a real passion for them both and Chris also has a shed with weaving and spinning equipment. Some further travel is probably on the cards once the borders open. 

What they won’t miss is the telephone call at around 7.15am advising a sick member of staff won’t be in that day. “We also missed many family celebrations up and down the country as we were totally tied to the business” says Bruce.  But what they will miss is the day to day contact with their clientele and staff.  “The café was our social life” says Chris,  “right from the beginning we have been welcomed to the town, there is a real community feel”.

“The overwhelming support for our final day was amazing” said Bruce. “We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone for their friendship and custom over the last eighteen years”. 

Rosy McLeod

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