On Thursday evening I tagged along as the 'partner in tow' to a business event commemorating the change of ownership of Gifts on Grove, and the addition of Xue Gallery, and soon an area dedicated to selling local preserves.
I happened to know the new owners Xuemei Zhang and Roland van Asch as Xuemei previously served as chairperson of the Marlborough Migrant Centre. Xuemei was a very capable and courteous leader who also knew her own limitations, and was not afraid to ask advice from others.
All too often there are reports in the news of former pround New Zealand industries shifting offshore to China. In a rather ironic role reversal, Xuemei as an ethnic Chinese along with her kiwi husband Roland are playing a very active role in promoting New Zealand made products.
Of course some of the gifts in the shop are made overseas, but in addition to the shop, is a jewelery manufacturing operation right here in Blenheim, producing high quality greenstone and bone jewelery, sold both locally, and around New Zealand. With the addition of Xue gallery, there is also an outlet for the works of local and national artists.
With a wide range of skills between them, although admitting themselves to be new to retail, Xuemei and Roland hopefully will be able to turn this into a major business success story for Marlborough. Times are tough, and there will be challenges, but with their mix of Kiwi ingenuity and Chinese work ethic, if there's anyone who can make this work, this couple will be the ones to make it happen.