Time called on 35-year era
By Peter Brittenden
Napier businessman Buck Buchanan stood and watched the hotel he owned for 35 years being knocked to the ground yesterday.
Mr Buchanan owned the Stortford Lodge Hotel from the early 1950s to the late 1980s but said he was not overcome with sadness when the bulldozers moved in this week.
The old pub site was bought by BP a few months ago and it is being cleared for a new service station and other developments. “l have many years of very happy memories here at the pub.
“But it had out-lived its usefulness, the days of the booze-barns are well over and most people enjoy drinking in different circumstances now,” Mr Buchanan said. The place had given him the opportunity to meet “everyone from prime ministers to paupers”.
Mr Buchanan was well known for the managerial and entreprenurial skills he brought to the business.
He went into the hotel against strong advice from friends in the hotel trade because the site was so isolated.
He also had no capital but had agreed to make a contribution to the cost.
But the profits the hotel made in the first few weeks took care of that.
When he took it over in 1953, it had a wage bill the equivalent of $78,000 a year. When he sold up in 1988 the wage bill was more than $1-million and the annual turnover was up to $10-million. In that time the Buchanans refurbished the hotel and established and built up the very successful liquor outlet next door.
They were preparing to set up a separate restaurant and other services but planning problems with the Hastings District Council forced a re-think. So the Buchanans put the hotel on the market and headed for Napier.
They bought the T and G building and set up the Great Wall restaurant and conference centre there. Life has moved on for Buck Buchanan.
But, although he was taking a pragmatic approach to the demolition job going on in front of him this week, it was not hard to sense some degree of sadness as the hotel he had spent three decades running was smashed to the ground.
Photo caption – Mr Buchanan amid the rubble of the hotel he has owned since the early 1950s