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Supermarket siblings tell of long shelf life

Mention Raglan’s supermarket and many longtimers about town will still think Petchells, even if the store’s been under new management for years now and the Four Square Man has more recently yielded to SuperValue signage.

But while the Petchell name will forever be linked with the Raglan grocery trade, there’s another family about town who’ve been — and still are — also something of an institution at the Bow Street supermarket.

Various members of the Davies family have between them notched up nearly eight decades of work there, a feat which has prompted the odd wag to suggest downtown Raglan should have a Davies Corner just as suburban Hamilton has a Davies Corner block of shops.

Three of the Davies got together over a coffee with the Chronicle last week to talk about the family’s remarkable though little publicised record of joint service.

Marty Davies, 63, recalled getting his first reference from Petchells supermarket when he left Raglan Area School as a teenager.

That was back in the ‘60s, though he’d been heading downtown to do “general packing and whatever” from the tender age of 10 when his mother Fay worked there.

Brothers Eric and Frank Petchell owned the store then, Marty recalled, “Nana” Petchell ran the office and Val Petchell was in charge of haberdashery.

Marty’s younger sisters — Gina Robbs, who’s now 60, and Fiona Waitere, who’s 54 — followed his pattern, heading down to their mother’s workplace after school.

And like Marty, they’re back there working to this day and have done so now for more than a decade, notching up nearly 60 years’ of service between them.

Add in their mother Fay’s 25-odd years’ at Petchells back in the day, and that’s more than eight decades of Davies dedication to what is now Raglan’s one and only supermarket when once there were three in town, they say.

Marty told the Chronicle a lot of people these days didn’t know the three of them were related, and they joked good-naturedly about denying they’re brother and sisters.

Marty, in produce, reckons they don’t really have much to do with each other at work. With Gina in hardware, grocery and on checkout and Fiona in grocery and general merchandise, their paths don’t always cross.

So what’s kept the Davies coming back to the supermarket after all having branched out in between times? Marty scored a Foodstuffs scholarship and took off to Frankton to run his own shop for 15 years, while Gina and a girlfriend ran the IGA in town — where Trade Aid is now — for a few years and then did a decade or so at Raglan Trust Hospital and Oceanview Resthome which was in Norrie Avenue until recently.

And Fiona worked in Frankton for a time, and also at Oceanview Resthome for nine years.
It’s the people really, they agreed, that had brought them all back to the supermarket here. “We are like a big family, helping each other,” said Gina. “And getting shitty (with each other) at times too,” she admitted.

When Piripi Kereopa died last year it “affected everybody” in the store, chimed in Fiona, who started work there the same day as him a decade or so ago. “But it brought us all closer together.”
The Davies reckon all the locals knew each other back in the early days whereas now of course there’s so many tourists through town, of all nationalities.

Their early memories are of a bygone era when nothing was pre-packed. They bagged, wrapped and bottled everything themselves in those days from sugar, flour and cheese to kerosene and meths which was poured into wine bottles from the pub, then corked and labelled.

Petrol too was sold from the store’s carpark, even though there were three service stations in town.
And the New Zealand Herald came in at 10 every morning, Marty recalled, with crowds gathered outside the shop waiting for it.

So much was “charged up” back then too, he added. One of Marty’s jobs at Petchells once he’d left school was to ring farming families three times a week and make up their orders which were then delivered to them.
And socially of course, downtown was the Centennial Milk Bar and Cabaret — now Orca Restaurant & Bar — where they’d go to dances at night and where Gina had her wedding reception.

Edith Symes

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