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Change a constant for hotel boss

Turkey Red owner Marilla Rankin is looking to retire at the end of the year, but for now it’s business as usual. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

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Adapting to the seasons, the ups and downs of the economy, and the ever-changing circumstances of business are the norm for Turkey Red owner Marilla Rankin.

It’s business as usual at the country hotel in Greytown for the rest of the year, before developer Richard McNaughton, who owns the Watermark businesses, sets to work next year on the next chapter for the landmark building.

Rankin reflects on 22 years in business in Greytown as she prepares to retire near the end of the year.

There is so much to talk about.

On the table, she spreads out early brochures she created promoting the town. The Taste of Greytown booklet says “there’s more to do than just drive thru”.

She also reflects on the hospitality industry.

“People aren’t drinking as much, and New Zealand is more of a café culture, especially in the winter when people are eating in the daytime rather than
at night.”

There were a lot of choices for consumers now, she said.

In Greytown, there are more than 20 eating places and some open in the evening, as well as during the day.

With a population of about 2000, businesses need to attract visitors.

“We work really hard with our marketing,” she said.

She thinks the high petrol prices may be putting off Wellington people from day and weekend trips to Wairarapa.

“And also there is a huge amount to do in Wellington at weekends now. People go into the city.”

The economic climate was “not great” and winter was a challenging time for all small businesses, Rankin said.

“Because of the economy and people’s incomes, if there is an event on they’ll go, but because of drink-driving they won’t call in here and have a beer afterwards.”

She says the hotel dated back to the 1870s, being known as the Forrester’s Arms and then The Green Man, though locals also referred to it as “the middle pub”.

“I’m happy that Richard has bought this, and I am really thrilled it is going to be restored and not pulled down.”

While looking ahead to retirement she continues to adapt.

As we spoke a customer who had purchased a GrabOne meal and accommodation deal rang to book, and Rankin’s looking at selling takeaway roast meals during winter.

“We have been one of the places for music. Musicians I have supported over the years are thinking of having some music gatherings before we close,” she said.

Rankin’s range of beers reflect the different markets her business traverses.

She stocks craft beer and the old favourites so locals looking for value for money, as well as the beer buffs, can all find something they like.

That’s business, dealing with all kinds of trends.

Rankin said she had watched the town grow and her early work on promoting Wairarapa had played a role in that.

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