Oparau store scores biggie
NZ Lotteries chief executive Todd McLeay didn't know where Oparau was located until this week.
"I just found out; until recently it hadn't sort of featured," he jokes yesterday, as he arrives at the bright yellow Oparau Roadhouse on SH31, near Kawhia, on the west coast.
The tiny settlement is certainly on McLeay's map now. The Oparau Roadhouse - "in the middle of nowhere" has just been named the top shop in Lotto's retailer competition, scooping the title from more than 1000 stores nationwide. Mr McLeay has driven down from Auckland to present a trophy and a $5000 prize to Roadhouse owners Bill and Brenda Rogers, and he's impressed with what he sees.
"It's a real achievement for the Roadhouse. I get the feeling there are old-fashioned values at work here," he tells Bill and Brenda. "You should be very proud of yourselves. Some of this stuff you read about in the Harvard Business Review."
The Lotto retailers' competition, called Game On, is based on outstanding service, in-store promotions and a monthly on-line quiz. Stores are visited by an anonymous shopper four times a year, and Mr McLeay says they've been rigorous in reviewing and rating performances. "And I can't think of any places more remote than this," he adds, as he looks out to rolling farmland and bush, without another business in sight.
As he takes a tour, Mcleay admires the diversity of this one-stop-shop: The cafe, the big kitchen where Brenda makes excellent pies, the general store, summer beer garden, petrol pumps, art gallery and, of course, the Lotto counter.
Brenda says they're quite competitive at the Roadhouse, but she puts their win down to looking after people,
"doing unto others as you would have them do to you''.
She and Bill and their staff Carey Thom, Shannon Turner and Lesley Mueller greet customers in a friendly manner, and treat them well.
They're open all hours, they still pump fuel , and the Rogers run a budget backpackers next door where they mostly don't charge people.
As a result of the latter, they've have made friends with tourists from all over the world.
Bill chips in to say he spends quite a lot of time talking to customers. He grins at Brenda: "Sometimes I get into trouble for that."
Customer service is everything,'' Brenda says. "Because we're not too big, we have time to spend with people. We know a lot of them, we can give them a bit of cheek. With the Lotto, we can spend time with older people who don't understand the game.''
Bill and Brenda started their business from scratch just over 18 years ago.
The Rogers applied to be a Lotto retailer not long after they opened, and were turned down because of their remote location and lack of population.
They got the product three-and-a-half years ago, and have worked hard to promote it.