Parkes' eclectic building is continually upgraded
Terry Parkes' business plan is to follow his gut.
And after 35 years in the hospitality industry, the owner of New Plymouth's Nice Hotel, Table Restaurant and Best Suites believes his instinct works better for him than any forecasting or accountancy.
The flamboyant New Plymouth stalwart says he's spent "a zillion dollars" on his Brougham St hotel and restaurant since its establishment almost 13 years ago.
And current developments will see a bar and and four new suites added to the eclectic premises, which already has seven rooms and five suites.
"I've been fortunate to be able to see what's needed, to know what works and what doesn't," Parkes says.
Fresh home from a trip to New York to raise funds for the Len Lye Centre, he sees the new bar, which will spread across two rooms at the front of the hotel, as New Plymouth's version of the Waldorf housebar.
Though guests are unlikely to be as famous as the likes of Lauren Baccall and Humphrey Bogart, Parkes says there are plenty of interesting characters floating around the hotel - and does not balk at the suggestion that he himself is a modern day Basil Fawlty.
"I play on it. I never miss the opportunity to have a laugh, it's good fun."
Upon entering the hotel last week, where the bottom rate for a room will set you back about $250 a night, I encountered a paint splattered drop cloth, a Hello magazine on an antique chair framed by contemporary New Zealand artworks and a splendid bunch of white oriental lilies.
Parkes was in the kitchen, baking a cake, dressed in blue suede shoes and a grey and lemon striped shirt. His fingers and wrists were adorned with gold jewellery.
Forever the host, I was immediately offered coffee and piloted to an outdoor table in full sun at the hotel's garden area.
Parkes says the new bar will fill a gap that was present in the hotel's layout - a place where guests can plonk themselves upon arrival, where discerning drinkers can enjoy an after work cocktail and snack, or where diners can wait while their table is prepared.
To create the bar, local builders are knocking out a wall, turning what is currently a guest room into a "brocade, velvet and lush," drinking hole.
Up to 15 guests, or members of the public, will be able to fit into the bar.
Parkes can afford to lose the room, due to a second new development - The Composers.
He has bought the building over the back fence, which he will to covert into another four contemporary and "exclusive" suites, which he says are aimed at "the very wealthy."
They are due to be completed in September.
Though Parkes is modest about his business acumen and claims he didn't do well at school, he wasn't born yesterday and knows his new investment doesn't come risk-free.
"It's still a gamble in this economic climate.
"The oil industry isn't here forever. It will slacken off. We're riding the crest of the wave at the moment."
Parkes says that when the oil and gas runs out, the region will need to find other ways of attracting people and he is, perhaps, just as well known as a host in New Plymouth as he is as a vocal supporter of the arts.
He says he would like to see his clientele, which is about two-thirds corporate and one third tourist, change in ratio to 50/50.
"The Len Lye Centre will put us on the map," he said, "and sooner or later a balance will happen."
With the centre complete, he envisions New Plymouth will become a destination city - in line with Spain's Bilbao, home to the Frank Gehry- designed Guggenheim Museum.
"We've already got Womad, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, the Festival of Lights and Puke Ariki that people come especially to see."
It's clearly a gamble he's willing to make - the hotel's new bar is due to open about June 6 - just in time for a banger of a party, which will combine the hotel's 13th birthday with Parkes' 60th.
Taranaki Daily News