For hoteliers Mark and Nikki Button, the seven-year-itch applies to their ownership of the award-winning Waipiata Country Hotel, which they put on the market last month, just under seven years from when they bought the historic pub.
small town, current population 15, when they rode the rail trail 11 years ago.
They wanted to stay overnight but there was no option to do so, so they had to continue cycling.
“We thought there might be investment opportunities and did some research and took on Tussock Lodge,” Mr Button said.
About five years later, the local pub came on the market and, after some negotiation, the Buttons bought it also.
“Coming from not being a publican, we thought it was easy on that side of the bar so it would be easy on the other,” Mr Button said.
It wasn’t quite that easy, but the couple spent almost seven “really enjoyable” years as publicans, building a far-flung reputation for their food while there.
In 2019, the hotel won the Eat.Taste.Central. pie section, and last year it won the people’s choice country hotel section, and Mr Button won front of house personality.
The hotel has become a destination venue for food lovers from around the country, a popular local for residents of surrounding towns, and a welcome stop for cyclists on the rail trail.
“Our record night was 320 meals on a Friday night,” Mr Button said.
“Over Christmas, we were doing over 200 meals a night and averaging about 150 lunches.”
The couple plan to remain living in nearby Patearoa but felt it was “time for a bit of a change”.
They would retain Tussock House and develop it further, finishing the landscaping and making it larger, “council willing”.
They will also retain the Waipiata Pie Co, a food offshoot that came about by chance.
The restaurant had two lamb shanks left over from a buffet and a staff member suggested making them into pies, Mr Button said, “because everything tastes good in pastry”.
They were a success so the next day the kitchen cooked up a bunch of lamb shanks and turned them into 70 pies.
Rail trail cyclists tried them and recommended them to others on the trail, and a second business was born.
More than 2000 pies a week were sold from the hotel, with another 150 to 200 a week sent out frozen to meet orders, Mr Button said.
They plan to set up a portable kitchen to continue the pie business.
“People stay with us because of the pies, because they’ve heard the name,” Mr Button said.