Reluctant greengrocer makes way for expressway

Last updated 12:02 23/01/2014

Well loved: Des Yee with customers and staff at a farewell at his Waikanae Market Gardens on Monday.

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Kapiti Observer

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If Des Yee had his way he would have been left alone to get on with growing, and not had to deal with pesky customers, but after 30 years his market gardens and Waikanae shop will be widely missed.

A farewell was held for Mr Yee's customers at Melt, the cafe on his Te Moana Rd property, on Monday.

Doors closed at the shop that afternoon. The NZ Transport Agency has bought the land as part of preparations for the MacKays to Peka Peka expressway.

Long time Waikanae Market Gardens customer Kevin Ramshaw was nominated by Mr Yee's staff to speak at the farewell, and said Mr Yee was well loved for his honest charm and humour. "Des told me he never wanted customers because they were a 'pain in the butt'; growing vegetables was much easier.

"But over the years his banter and willingness to give his customers as good as he gets created a loyal following."

"Des's customer service philosophy didn't come out of a textbook, but it worked because it was so genuine," he said.

Mr Yee's own parents operated a market garden in the Wairarapa, and he originally intended to supply wholesalers rather than open a retail shop.

"But people kept coming to the market garden fence and asking for a cabbage or a cauli," Mr Ramshaw said.

"Eventually the challenges of providing change for these small transactions persuaded him to open a shop in a tin shed that is still on the property." Demand grew, and the tin shed made way for a larger shop, offering a wide range of fruit and vegetables.

The Kapiti Observer has been contacted by several readers to say how much the gardens and shop will be missed by the community.

Mr Yee is taking some time off to decide what he will embark on next, Mr Ramshaw said.

Notoriously shy of publicity, Mr Yee declined to comment for this article.

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- Kapiti Observer


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