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Foxy Boxy

As we get very close to Christmas and the annual struggle to find the perfect gifts for people we care about, there are lots of local options, be it wine or gourmet treats to enjoy over a few days I think a food and beverage gift is a lot better than a trinket that will never be used.

If you’re not sure what to buy the local gift box business Foxy Boxy is here to help. Last week I caught up with owners Melissa and Charlie Evans to find out just what they can do to help you find the perfect gift for everyone this Christmas that showcases local Nelson products.

As Charlie says “we cater to a wide range of gift givers, from businesses who want to give something to staff or clients as well as individuals looking for something special”, but a big part of their business right now is people sending gifts to family and friends in Auckland. “With Covid and families not being able to visit one another people are sending lots of gifts, people want to stay connected so there’s lots of ‘keep your chin up’ type messages.”

Charlie and Melissa met in Auckland and, as all young Kiwis do, headed off to explore the world, travel and have adventures overseas. While living in Canada, Melissa was looking for something to send to her mother in New Zealand, “I wanted to buy a gift for my mum that was just a wee bit special with something that was a real treat for her but I couldn’t find a gift box suitable for her at the quality I wanted.”

This is how the idea for Foxy Boxy was born. “Because I couldn’t find anything that ticked the quality and presentation boxes, we saw an exciting business opportunity which we could do really well when we returned to New Zealand. With our backgrounds in graphic design, e-commerce and marketing, we knew we had the skillset to create an awesome business.”

When they set up Foxy Boxy they knew that to be successful in a competitive gift-giving market they had to focus on three key things; firstly the quality of the product had to be excellent, without compromise. Secondly the design of the products and gift packaging had to be both enticing and scream quality and finally their service had to be exceptional.

Melissa says it’s important to have premium products that also looked stunning when the box was opened. “The look of every product is important and how it’s presented it is vital. ”

Melissa told me one part of their success is that they are really fast on delivering gifts, “We use our courier partner’s express overnight service which enables our gifts to be delivered as fast as possible throughout NZ, this is really important.”

Hogarth’s Chocolate is just one of the many tasty treats packed into some of the gift boxes on offer.

Many of their gift box options have local products as well as premium products from other regions. “We test all our products and we only select products that wow us. If they don’t wow us they won’t wow the gift recipient and we want people to be really excited when they receive the gift.

“A lot of thought goes into preparing the gifts, we think of it as a curated gift box rather than filling a box with void-fill (tissue paper) with some stuff from the supermarket, our boxes are full of product. We don’t use any box fillers and have between three & twelve products in each box. When people receive it they keep finding more the deeper they dig. We make sure it’s a fun experience for people.”

“A lot of our customers in Auckland love the fact we stock premium South Island products. Many of them have visited the Nelson region so it’s also a reminder of places they have enjoyed visiting. We are perfectly positioned in Nelson to be able to source fantastic products that can be delivered to us quickly by our suppliers and for us to ship around the country.”

McCashin’s Single Malt Whisky

Melissa and Charlie think their suppliers are the best in New Zealand and they work with a range of fantastic local suppliers like Hogarth’s Chocolate, Eddyline Brewery, Yum Granola, Dancing Sands Gin and Living Light Candles. (check the suppliers page on their website).

One really important local product for Foxy Boxy is a Royce McGlashen mug with a heart on the side, “they make it exclusively for us and we sell heaps of them” says Charlie. “Royce loves working with people who want something special and it’s always a pleasure to go and see them.”

Some of their most popular gift boxes are the wine and nibbles gift and the gin tasting gift box but they also create a range of special seasonal boxes. Melissa told me “Our Christmas Eve gift boxes are really popular. They are designed to open on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, if you have a family of kids this is the anticipation gift for them.”

Last year people in Dubai bought them as gifts for family in New Zealand and asked us to make sure we have them this year because they are one of the best things they bought.”

The youngest members of the Foxy Boxy team are Melissa and Charlie’s 2 kids, Sophia (12) and Nicky (9). “We love getting the kids involved and teaching them about running a business. Box folding and ribbon cutting make a great holiday job, but their favourite part is definitely taste testing our delicious products”.

To find out more and give the perfect gift as a thank you, get well or celebration check out www.foxyboxy.nz

Published in the Nelson Mail 03-11-2021

Street Food on Washington

A couple of years ago I wrote about a couple who relocated from Auckland to Nelson, chef Ben Smith and his wife Bridget have since taken over the old store in Washington Valley and set about turning it into a real community food spot; Street Food on Washington is a lot more than just a place for quick takeaways at lunchtime, but you can do that too if you want to.

Last week I sat down with Ben and Bridget to find out a bit more about the food and why they chose this little out-of-the-way former dairy to open a restaurant and café. I say restaurant because the business has been so popular with locals, and people who have already discovered them, that they are now open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

Ben told me they had this vision to create a cool local community space that isn’t in the city, “we wanted to bring restaurant quality food to a local community and to become part of a community, not just another place to pick up lunch on the go.”

And they have done that with remarkable success, not only have they been welcomed with open arms into the local community but many people from around the region have discovered their food, be it a cheese scone for morning tea, a wrap to grab-and-go for lunch or a meal cooked fresh for you to enjoy in the relaxed, yet very cool space they have created.

The idea of making street food the core of their business came about because they didn’t want to be in a box of ‘we make this’, “we want to make exciting, flavoursome food and our food is a bit eclectic” says Ben. “We can take street food from anywhere in the world and reinvent the dish in so many ways, innovating every day keeps us excited and gives our loyal customers something new from somewhere around the world to try.”

Of course, they have regular menu items but they have a twist too. Things like an Onion Bhaji Burger with mango chutney, a Korean hot dog with crispy potato batter, Loaded Fries smothered with caramelized onions, jalapenos, cheese sauce and bacon.

As Ben says, “No one can travel at the moment so we are bringing a taste of various countries to Washington Valley and any dish, with the exception of two, can be altered to suit any dietary requirement.”

Each week they have a special dish and some regulars now just ring up and order ‘the special please’ without asking what it is, “they get to try something new and interesting every week” says Ben.
“It’s so good to have the freedom to create great food however I like and have earnt the trust of my loyal regulars.”

Some recent specials of the week include Texan bbq pork ribs w pineapple salsa and peanut slaw,
Polish pierogi dumplings w saurkraut caramelized onion and bacon with sour cream, Mexican sopes with grilled steak, cactus with crema and salsa as well as Karaage chicken burger with Korean bbq sauce and Japanese mayo

Street Food on Washington also has a strong family ethos. Bridget told me “We’re in a busy local community, a community full of families and we want to encourage our kids to be part of a community business and understand what it takes to run a successful business.”

The business is going from strength-to-strength and is soon to include a food truck so the whole family is entwined in the operation alongside long-time friend Joe Saywell who is their sous chef. Bridget deals with all of the admin, “everything from staying on top of the accounts, paying people, ordering food and managing the refurbishment of the former ambulance that is going to be the food truck, and she still works in the restaurant Thursday Friday and Saturday our busiest days” says Ben. “We make such a great team.”

“Our 17 year old son is a budding chef and runs the kitchen on Saturday during the day while I work front of house making coffee and chatting with customers. For us one of the highlights is it’s a family business, Connor (17) has been working for me for a few years, we treat him as a staff member and he has really stepped up to the mark.

“Our other kids Liam (13), Ethan (15) and Hannah (11) all work here at weekends and nights, you’ll find Hannah manning the till and taking orders on Saturday lunch.”

The development of the business has been everything they wished for, “customers drip-feed in all day, it’s nice regular business that is easy to manage with just a few people, nights are taking off and about 50% of our business comes from regulars, some people come in every day, and not just immediate locals, some come here from around the region to relax over a coffee and do some work away from the office.”

The food truck is being constructed at the moment and the intention is to launch it with a street food party in Washington Valley, then it will appear at lots of places like nightclubs in town and it’s designed so they can cook all sorts of food for functions and events, not just street food.

They are also in the early stages of applying for a liquor license and with an outdoor area planned for summer things are moving along fast.

Check out www.streetfoodonwashington.co.nz for their opening hours, menus and to pre-order your freshly cooked favourite taste from around the world to take home, have delivered to your door by Yummi or so it’s ready for you to enjoy in the street art themed premises.

Published in the Nelson Mail 07-07-2021

Pic’s & Whittakers

A few of the key factors in the success of any business are being able to adapt, innovate and strive for continual improvement, even if you have the market sector cornered, and that is exactly what Pic Picot and his merry band of peanut butter wizards do at Pic’s Peanut Butter World.

The Pic’s story about making peanut butter at home because he thought the commercial stuff was simply awful is very well known but people often forget the risk, thoughtfulness and extensive planning required to build a business the size of Pic’s Peanut Butter into the enterprise it is today.

Let’s be honest, it is just peanut butter, damned fine peanut butter but just peanut butter none the less, it is the dedication to excellence, the branding and marketing that has made this one of New Zealand’s most trusted brands and has provided the springboard to expand the range of products produced by the enthusiastic Pic’s team that shares his dream to create a business that is important to New Zealand, and just happens to be based in the place he calls home, Nelson.

When a new Pic’s product arrives on the shelves everyone is more than happy to try it because we trust Pic and his brand but what we don’t see is the very careful market analysis and product testing that happens before you and I get to buy it.

Making products like almond butter and cashew butter seems like a simple thing to do but there is a lot of planning that goes into the production of these to ensure there’s no cross contamination with peanut products. Then there’s simple things like selling peanut butter ‘slugs’ so you can take the handy little plastic squeeze pouches with you anywhere or even selling it in buckets for those who just can’t get enough of his pure peanut butter – “we only add salt, nothing else”.

Because we live in a region where a large proportion of the world’s boysenberries are grown it seems like common sense to add boysenberry jelly to the range they produce, after all peanut butter and jelly is a classic blend to spread on your morning toast.

Honey is another product that was simple to add, just find a reliable source of premium honey and add the trusted Pic’s brand. Then there’s those who have created products like ice cream and chocolate using Pic’s peanut butter; however, creating a whole new product isn’t easy, especially when you have built a peanut butter brand on having nothing but peanuts and salt in each jar.

The latest product from Pic’s has been created in association with another trusted New Zealand brand, Whittaker’s Chocolate. Pic’s Peanut Chocolate Butter is like a Whittaker’s peanut slab in paste form, and it’s bloody delicious!

When I received a sample of this new product I phoned Pic and told him we needed to talk, the product is ridiculously good so I wanted to know what went in to creating it and getting it to market without compromising his trusted brand. We sat down over a coffee and he told me “it actually started about five years ago so it isn’t something we have jumped into on a whim.

“There had been mutterings in the firm about needing a chocolate peanut butter about 5 years ago so when a Dutch girl came to work for us as an intern and she needed a project we gave her the peanut chocolate butter as a project to research for us.

“She did some work on branding and label design and we made some trial batches and ran a public taste test at a Nelson City market day at the time, the public loved it but I was resistant because I’m a purist when it comes to peanut butter, it’s who we are as a company.

“But the team were keen to do something and kept pushing the idea to me, I just kept my thumb on the hold button for five years rather than pressing go however, I have a fantastic team and I know I need to support them as much as they support me, I trust them and their thoughts around these things and I can’t be autocratic all the time.”

Having Whittaker’s as a co-brand partner was an important part of the decision. “I love the fact they are manufacturers like us, not just a company marketing a product, I want to partner with people who make stuff rather than just selling a product, we also always want to make products that are going to be used rather than being tried once or twice then ending up being pushed to the back of the shelf in the pantry.”

That means a huge amount of effort went into creating the right peanut chocolate butter blend, “we are peanut butter makers first and foremost so it had to be a peanut butter product with a chocolate flavour rather than a chocolate product with a peanut flavour.”

When we talked about the risk of bringing a product like this to market he said of course it’s a risk, “but if we stop taking risks we become boring and that is worse than death. If you didn’t do something different you would never know what the outcome might be and just might miss the golden opportunity.”

As much as I like this new product Pic’s is first and foremost a peanut butter producer this country, and many others around the world, trust so Pic Picot would never let his company do something that will compromise the hard-earned trusted brand stamp.

A top tip from me is to try this delicious peanut chocolate butter spread on a warm croissant for a Sunday morning treat, outrageously decadent!

Published in the Nelson Mail 03-02-2010

HARRY’S FISH SHOP

Howard (Harry) Morris has been a fixture in the Nelson restaurant and food scene for a couple of decades, initially as the chef at The Cut restaurant that he owned with Rob Fanselow then the two of them opened Harry’s in Hardy St before relocating to the top of Trafalgar St.

When Harry sold Harry’s Bar, he wanted to stay in the food industry but not be working the unsociable hours that running a bar and restaurant often involves. When he saw that the fresh fish business on the entrance to Marble Arch Arcade was for sale, Harry could see the opportunity to use his cooking skills to add value to a great little business.

Harry’s Fish Shop is the place you can buy fresh fish as well as beautifully crafted meals ready for you to buy for lunch or take home for dinner.

The fresh seafood comes from the local fisherman he bought the shop from, Andy and Simone Kenton. Harry says, “Andy bought a second boat and felt that looking after the fishing business was going to be enough and decided to sell the shop with an ongoing fish supply in place.

“Andy is one of the few independent local fishermen left in the region; his dad fished, so it’s in the blood and his focus had to be on fishing not running a retail business.”

The fish shop business was built on the quality fish that Andy’s boats catch along with a few other suppliers, including locally speared Butter Fish and Blue Cod from D’Urville Island. The supply of fish is always slightly varied with the weather playing a big part in when and how much fish is available.

“We have another couple of regular suppliers, Mt Cook Salmon and Donna Wells, owner of Finest Kind, and we get smoked fish products from Aqua Fresh who also do the smoking of the Mt Cook Salmon for the shop.”

Not your usual lunch, the house cured salmon with asparagus and potato salad sold at Harry’s. BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF

Harry also has an expanding variety of accompaniments for sale, from fish coatings to dressings and sauces. “This is another part of the business that will be expanding, in time, to offer an assortment of accompaniments to compliment the fresh fish.”

As to the future of the business, Harry says “it is a work in progress I don’t have a set outcome as to where it will end up, retail is very different to hospitality so I’m still learning as we go. There are a lot of options we can offer over time, and I am looking forward to seeing how it all grows. With the stop-start that this year has provided my plans for moving forward slowed a little, but since coming back after lockdown the changes are happening at a good pace.”

He has started preparing dishes available to buy and reheat at home. “There are a few regular items like smoked fish potato-topped pie and different flavoured quiches, some flavours are standard like the salmon and caper or the smoked fish and caramelised onion, but we also produce other flavours depending on our mood on the day.”

The chili salt squid salad has become a popular lunch option for many in Nelson’s CBD. BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF

Recently Harry’s Fish Shop has added a small lunch menu with both hot and cold options “Fish & Chips, Ceviche, Prawn Roll with cocktail sauce and Chili Salt Squid which is still as popular as it was on the menu at Harry’s. Having a blackboard menu enables changes to be made easily.”

Most of the lunch options are cooked and made to order, so there is still a bit of kitchen service happening. “We plan this to make sure we can operate quickly as the lunch break for most people is only 30 minutes and we are already getting pre-ordered lunches, making it easier for us and the customers.”

Harry’s Fish Shop crew Rachael Bastion-Holmes, left, Harry Morris, Nigel Fahey, and Rachel James at the premises in Montgomery Square, Nelson. BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF

Of course, you get great advice when you visit Harry’s Fish Shop, both of his staff have a background working in the hospitality sector, “Rachel spent five years working on fishing boats too so has fantastic fish knowledge while Rachael’s trade has been in hospitality, together they are both very customer focused.”

They are a small but talented team at Harry’s Fish Shop and together they provide great service and knowledge, as well as the high-quality food Harry has delivered in Nelson for many years, every time you visit them in the Marble Arch Arcade on Montgomery Square. www.harrysfish.nz