Having celebrated her 20th year running – and living at – Lansdowne House on October 7, Kadia Merralls has made the personally momentous decision to put the iconic Masterton hospitality venue on the market.
Merralls and her late husband Richard bought the grand 690m2 Tudor-style mansion after they visited the region for a wedding at another venue, heard it was for sale, and fell in love with both its then-30-year history of fine dining and hospitality, and its potential for further development.
“And it has been a fabulous place to develop,” Merralls said, but since Richard died five and a half years ago, she admits she’s found keeping the varied aspects of the business up to her exacting standards an increasingly onerous task – despite the help of her loyal casual staff, many of whom she’s worked with for 15 years.
“I mused about it, and I decided it now deserves people who can do the place justice in a way that one person who is getting older by the day just can’t,” she said.
There’s a great opportunity for those who are more social media savvy to market Lansdowne House nationally, for example [“I didn’t grow up with computers, so there’s a limit to my ability,” Merralls laughed], as well as reestablish the venue’s fine dining restaurant [it’s been a fully licensed restaurant for half a century], and accommodation offerings, which include a honeymoon suite and four other bedrooms in the main heritage house, and three bedrooms in a separate bungalow on what had been the adjourning property before the couple bought it to create the current 5565m2 fastidiously landscaped property that features magnificent century-old trees.
But even though there are obvious areas of the business that will benefit from the “vitality” of new owners, the going concern’s core business of weddings and functions remains strong, with bookings extending to December 2024, along with such loyal customers as the business dinner group that’s been holding a function there 10 times a year since 1979.
“And there’s no reason to suspect that won’t continue, provided people get the service they’ve come to expect,” Merralls said.
That service – and the unique atmosphere – is key to Lansdowne House’s ongoing allure.
“Each function is different, but the basic theme is always the same: friendship, family, enjoyment, and the memories guests take away with them,” Merralls said.
Indeed, so strong is the sway of those memories that “in the past few months I’ve done two 50th wedding anniversaries for people who got married here 50 years ago – how good is that?”
Ultimately, Merralls said, that’s the business’s unique selling proposition: “Memories; that’s what we’ve sold over the years … with a big function, you’ve got the older ones sitting chatting away in comfortable armchairs, younger ones standing at the bar, the music’s on, there’s dancing, the candles are all glittering, and it’s just priceless.
“Creating happy memories and receiving hundreds of cards from people saying they couldn’t have asked for anything better from such a value-added experience – to me and to Rick, that’s what has been special.”
Lansdowne House is being sold by tender via Property Brokers’ Catherine Jacques and Liam Abbott, with offers closing at 2pm on Thursday, November 23.