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Can you push the right buttons?

Parkvale Mushrooms owner Clive Thompson is selling up after 56 years. PHOTO/HELEN HOLT

After half-a-century in the mushroom business, Clive Thompson hopes the next owner will push all the right buttons.

The Parkvale Mushrooms business is on the market, after 56 years, which Thompson started from scratch when he was 20 years old.

It now sells seven tonnes a week of mushrooms, with hospitality as one of the biggest markets.

“We coped pretty well with covid, but we were affected by the lockdowns because we couldn’t sell to hospitality.

“That’s a risk of this industry, you grow tonnes of mushrooms, but at the end of the process, they might not want them.”

He signalled retirement two years ago, but he said this year was about time.

“Things changed; it was hard to find the right person to take over. I’m 76, soon to be 77. Now feels like the right time.”

He said the most important part of growing mushrooms was setting up the compost.

“It’s more complicated than most. Compost is a dynamic process. The rest is pretty straightforward.”

He said selling the gourmet brown mushrooms was a challenge at first.

“The first summer was a bit of a disaster. People didn’t know what to do with them, we had to promote them.

“Now they’ve been more popular, people have learnt to barbecue them.”

Thompson hoped whoever took it over would be enthusiastic

“Mushrooms are a very interesting business, but you got to keep your eye on the ball. This isn’t a part-time job.

“It will be easier for them to buy this place because it is already set up.

“It would be incredibly hard to start this place from scratch now, particularly with requirements for council consent.”

He said the site sale had interest, including from Christchurch’s Meadow Mushrooms, but he wasn’t expecting a sale until at least November.

“When I first decided to sell, I thought it would be someone from overseas who knows how to grow mushrooms and liked the idea of living in New Zealand.”

The business presently employs 20 staff. Thompson said that was quite low, compared with past numbers.

The business became an unlikely fourth party in 2018 when a compost smell caused mass hysteria at Carterton’s South End School.

“A person near the school put some mushroom compost down. It was all a bit of nothing, but it was the biggest emergency event at that time. Fire engines everywhere.”

Once retired, Thompson hoped to take up art or golf, but would wait to get bored first.

“I love mushrooms, but I think I’ve grown enough.”

The business is on two sections, one six hectares, the other 4.6 hectares.

The sale will include production complex buildings comprising growing rooms, a cool store, packing and packaging areas, a workshop, offices and other technical areas.

Property agent Olly Gollins said that after 56 years under the same owner, there was a scope for new blood.

“The purchaser may be an investor who puts management in place. Of course, it would be good to see local ownership continue. It could be an ideal investment for an iwi with investment management already in place.”

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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