A warm welcome in Millers Flat

Local knowledge is something you just can’t buy when working in real estate. The best agents know “their patch” inside out and upside down, that success is when opportunity meets preparation. No need to tell that to Teviot Valley local and Harcourts Alexandra agent Brigitte Paterson, who took a chance open home meeting to the next level in negotiating a deal for a completely different property.

Faigans Millers Flat Kitchen and Café in the picturesque Teviot Valley closed its doors after the first nationwide lockdown in April 2020 and lay empty for months.
A fifth-generation local who has worked in real estate in the area for 15 years, Brigitte knew to bide her time and keep an eye out for the ‘right’ buyer who would see the potential in the business and lease.

That came months later when Queenstown restaurateurs Mark and Caroline Jessop, looking for a rental property in the township, came to an open home. While they didn’t buy the house Brigitte had listed (but did buy elsewhere) she got chatting to them about the restaurant business and the opportunities with Faigans.

Millers Flat (population around 200) is an excellent half-way stop off on the popular Clutha Gold cycle trail and known for its great fishing locations and recreational opportunities.
Brigitte knew the former owners of the building, knew the local community would be thrilled to have ‘their’ café open again, and could see the business growth potential with recreational cyclists and fishermen.

“Mark and Caroline appreciated the value that a local agent could bring to the table, all my local knowledge, and could see the potential in the Teviot Valley. Local knowledge is what it’s all about. “They were originally going to use their house here as a rental, but after spending time here and starting to understand the community and small village life they decided to use it as their holiday home.”

Slow and steady won this race – Brigitte sent the Faigan’s information to the couple in November last year but they weren’t going to commit to the business until they found the right ‘talent’ to run it.

“Brigitte was very proactive over a period of months, made us feel very welcome and was a great source of knowledge on how the local community ticked,” said Mark Jessop, who owns Queenstown’s Prime restaurant and has been in the hospitality business for 25 years.

“It gave us great confidence in the area and its people and Brigitte impressed us with her perseverance and doggedness to get the deal done.”

Before they would commit to the sale, the Jessops spent those months looking for just the right people to run the business, aware that they needed someone with maturity, experience and staying power to make it work.

They found that in chef Vern Samu and partner Kris Gallagher who were delighted to relocate from Auckland to Central Otago and become partners in the business. Mark had met Vern in Queenstown many years ago while he was working for another restaurant and kept in touch.

Now the doors to Faigans are open once more, working through various pandemic alert levels to offer coffees and cabinet food as they get underway, with plans for a seven-day-a-week operation offering lunches, breakfasts and eventually Friday and Saturday night dinners in the pipeline.

“It’s a great community, its going very well and all four of us are very excited to expand and grow the business,” said Mark.

Photo credit: Shannon Thomson/Otago Daily Times