The Twizel Four Square (known locally as “the small one” or “the three square”) has enjoyed a few different guardians over the past 10 years. The latest to give the shop a go is Chris and Julianne Grant. The Christchurch couple admit they were pretty green coming into the business but have since learned how to put their mark on the popular store.
With they couple’s children finishing school, Chris and Julianne knew it was time to make a change, and of “all the hairbrained ideas” Chris came up with, buying into the Four Square family was the one that seemed the most doable. “We had some quite raucous evening meals where Chris would come up with suggestions for business ideas,” Julianne recalled.
With a background in refrigeration and physiotherapy, the couple think their combined experiences have set them up well for the Four Square life. While Chris got to know the Foodstuffs brand through installing their refrigeration systems, Julianne was involved with their employee return to work programme. They went through the franchise approval process and sat back waiting for a store to become available. Their ideal location was somewhere drivable while their kids were still at University in Christchurch so when the Twizel Four Square went on the market, they jumped at the chance.
“We also wanted somewhere that would be busy enough during the summer that the kids would want to come work with us,” Julianne said.
Having friends with holiday homes in Twizel also helped during that first summer they took over the store.
“We were thrown in the deep end,” Julianne recalled, “so knowing we had that support system was another reason we chose this store.”
“We also inherited great staff,” added Chris. “They knew that we were green but really helped us during that period."
The couple hit the ground running and felt the warmth of the Twizel community immediately. “We were very welcomed into this community,” Julianne recalled. “Now we feel like we’re quite a central hub. Some days it’s hilarious, people are just standing around in the store chatting. The customers even say it’s the place to be!”
Having two Four Squares within walking distance from each other is a quirky point of interest for Twizel, and while the two stores do support each other, Julianne admits they’d never be able to directly compete with the bigger store. So instead, they focus on the service they can offer to the community. “We like think our point of difference is our customer service,” Julianne explained. “We deliver to the elderly in the community. We will carry their bags to the car, pack their buggies or get their groceries off the shelves for them”.
“We have been lucky enough to mostly employ locals when staff move on and I think the community like that they come in and they know the people working here.”
With the cost of living crisis at the top of their minds, Chris and Julianne acknowledge that times are tough for everyone. While most of their prices are set by Foodstuffs, they reduce prices with their produce and butchery products where they can.
“We are trying really hard to get the pricing as low as we can,” Julianne said. “We’ve managed to hook into a lot of produce deals, so we are able to offer good quality well priced produce.”
During their first summer, Julianne estimates they were working 80 hour weeks. This time around the couple is putting more of a focus on that work/life balance so they can get out and enjoy everything our region has to offer.
While they are still putting in the hard yards to establish their business, when they do get a moment away from the store, they’re busy exploring Twizel and the wider Mackenzie District. “We love getting out in the boat and taking our two dogs on Sunday adventures on the walking tracks,” Julianne said. “We try and go somewhere new on our days off; It’s such easy living. We’ve enjoyed living here far more than we had expected.”
They see themselves here for the long term. “This is a lifestyle choice for us,” Julianne explained, “We don’t see ourselves moving up the chain to take over a New World. We need to just get through the next few years and then try establish a more balanced lifestyle so we can really enjoy this beautiful area.”
Chris and Julianne have quickly become an integral part of the Twizel community. They’re still cutting their teeth but are continuously looking for ways to support locals. With the hectic summer season upon them, and their first Maadi Cup just around the corner, they will be relying on a big team effort to see them through and, as Julianne and Chris said, “you’re only as good as your staff.”