By PHILIP CHANDLER
Ex-Queenstowner Ron Imlach, who died in Riverton last week, aged 81, once owned a local produce business that grew like topsy.
Formerly a Southland farmer, and then an Invercargill motelier, he’d always enjoying holidaying here, so in ’94 persuaded his wife, Pat, to sell up and buy Queenstown Wholesale Market.
‘‘It was pretty ballsy stuff for a farmer to get into that because he didn’t have any experience in that industry,’’ Nathan, the oldest of their five children, says.
In the following 11 years, however, the business flourished, and not only supplied food,
veggies and grocery lines to local hospo outlets but also supplied produce around Otago, Southland and Fiordland, Ron often calling on old friends on his way back from deliveries.
‘‘We grew it from like six staff and when we sold the business we had 70 staff throughout the whole group,’’ Nathan says.
A wide family circle worked in the business — ‘‘we got nicknamed the ‘Munch Bunch’ at one stage’’, he said at Ron’s funeral.
One day, after Ron and brother-in-law John Mavor cleaned out a 200-litre drum of
Sunlight detergent, they were visited by then-harbourmaster Marty Black asking if they knew why foam and bubbles stretched from the lake and up to Horne Creek to their premises.
Nathan says his dad invented recycling before it was a thing, often giving away food that was salvageable.
Before selling to Bidfood, the family had started outlets in Wānaka, Te Anau and Queenstown — in the latter, Nathan and his brother Grant and their wives Angela and Nadine set up what’s now Raeward Fresh.
Ron was also a keen golfer, serving on the Queenstown Golf Club committee and being
behind many three-putt social golf trips.
After he and Pat moved to Riverton in 2016, Ron would pop back for two or three days every month — ‘‘he had a list of 14 or 15 people he wanted to visit and and he’d tick them off each night’’, Nathan says.
‘‘He loved people and they loved him, he cared about you, he always had time for a yarn,’’ he said at the funeral.