New boss beats racial prejudice in Queenstown

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A Wakatipu business owner who made a Filipino staffer his Queens­town manager says they’ve had to overcome some racial prejudice. 

Remarkable Upholstery owner Bevan Garland appointed long-term upholsterer Moises San Diego as manager of his Glenda Drive site last month. 

Garland has another operation in Wanaka and says he needed a Queens­town boss – but it hasn’t been smooth sailing for San Diego. 

Both he and Garland say often customers automatically assume San Diego can’t help them and ask for someone else.
Garland says: “People come in and say ‘Where’s the boss?’ And the guy obviously works there and he’s more than capable of looking after their stuff. 

“We fully had to get through a race barrier, that’s the bottom line.” 

Garland wants people to show San Diego the respect he deserves now he’s site manager. 

“It’ll be good for people to know they can talk to him when they come in,” Garland says. 

A Kiwi colleague Nate Hedwig, a trainee upholsterer, adds plenty of people tend to ignore San Diego and engage with him first. 

“They always ask me – ‘Are you the boss?’” 

San Diego, 44, moved to Queenstown three years ago for the job, having trained as an upholsterer before working as one for years on cruise ships. 

The family man, who got residency last year, says it’s not a nice feeling when people are initially dismissive of him. 

“I feel a bit sad really because I know I can do the job and people just don’t think that I can. 

“Most of the time I just keep quiet, I just don’t want to say ‘You should talk to me’. 

“Now that Bevan has said I’ll be the manager, I have to step up.” 

San Diego recently completed his New Zealand Trade Certificate in Upholstery to bring his qualifications up to speed locally. 

Garland admits he was initially a bit sceptical himself about taking a punt on a foreigner when he first hired San Diego as he’d had a couple of bad experiences with overseas staffers. 

“But I started reading some of the letters and credentials that Moises had and I thought okay maybe he can actually do the job.” 

Garland says despite advertising he couldn’t find any suitable locals keen on the job. 

“Moises’ skill level has improved constantly and [my regular] customers really like Moises. He’ll stand there and listen and then tell them whether it can or can’t be done. 

“I needed someone to run the ship over here and that’s what Moises has been leading up to,” Garland says.