Barker’s of Geraldine is celebrating 50 years in business this year and commemorating the anniversary with a new food store and eatery.
From humble beginnings in the corner of a South Canterbury farm in 1969, Barkers now boasts an extraordinary legacy in the community, employing about 2000 people over the years and now realising the dream of setting up a showcase bakery and cafe.
The company was founded on the entrepreneurial spirits of Anthony and Gillian Barker, based on instinct, ingenuity and hard work, says their son, and Barker’s of Geraldine Food Processing Chairman Michael Barker.
“It was very tough and we often look back at it and wonder how we survived and it very nearly didn’t, like most small businesses,” Michael said of his father’s early venture into winemaking from locally resourced and abundant elderberries 50 years ago.
It was Michael’s mum Gillian who took charge of the first Barker’s shop, which guided the family business to value the natural ways of rural hospitality – still a core of the business today.
Barkers stopped making wines about 20 years ago and became fruit processors, growing their range of products into juice syrups, sauces, preserves, bakery fillings, dressings, chutneys, fruit compotes and spritzers.
“Not long ago we were a cottage industry on the corner of the family farm and now we’re an overgrown cottage industry still on the corner of a family farm. We’re very unique in New Zealand in that we’re still on the family farm. Most businesses by now would have moved to Auckland or to where the population base is.”
It’s always been the Barker’s dream, instead of having just a store that sells bottles and jars, to have an eatery where they can showcase their delicious products in food.
“We had to find the right place at the right time. When the property came on the market we decided there was a great opportunity to educate people on how to use the products. We’ve always had a shop, but this is the first time we can showcase our food and the community has responded tremendously well. This food store and eatery has been extraordinarily busy and all credit to the staff,” says Michael.