Dunkerley’s a lucky man
Hawke’s Bay pharmacist Peter Dunkerley is almost as famous for handing out winning Lotto tickets as he is for dispensing medicines from his Stortford Lodge store in Hastings. ALEX HICKEY talks to him about his store’s amazing winning streak and how he plans to move from behind the counter on to the boardroom of a new national pharmacy chain.
It’s not just prescriptions that Peter Dunkerley has been dispensing from his Stortford Lodge pharmacy for the past 30 or so years.
As well as medicines and some friendly advice the avuncular 61-year-old has been handing out a little bit more than the doctor ordered.
About $23 million dollars worth of Lotto prize money to be precise.
His Hastings store, with ample justification, is known as – “The luckiest Lotto Shop in the land.”
The facts back this up.
Since it joined the Lotto club in 1987 his store has generated prize money of $23 million and created about 30 first-division winners, as well as remaining consistently ahead of its nearest lucky rivals: the Coastlands Mall at Paraparaumu and the Riccarton Mall, Christchurch.
The extraordinary run of good luck has won him a local, national and international following of loyal lottery ticket buyers.
He has sent tickets as far afield as Stewart Island and Australia, not to mention the hordes of locals who trek to his shop hoping that its magic will rub off on them.
I ask him if he can explain the phenomenon.
Ever the businessman, Dunkerley says: “It’s a little bit of good luck and a little bit of good management.”
He jokes that he should have built an international franchise out of it.
At one point he was receiving letters from all over the country from people wanting to know the secret of his success.
It’s no surprise that the marketing men behind Lotto decided to cash in on his good fortune casting him as a magician in a national TV advertising campaign, Dunkerley, himself no slouch in the marketing department, capitalised on the store’s remarkable winning streak through advertising on radio and in newspapers.
His loyal army of ticket-buyers however could be forgiven for feeling aghast at his latest move.
The pharmacist with the magician’s touch is stepping out from the dispensary in his Hastings store and moving on to the board of a new nationwide pharmacy chain – Radius.
Keen-eyed locals will have noticed his store has been renamed “Radius Peter Dunkerley” but the worried well of Lotto lovers can breathe a sigh of relief. He is not cutting all ties with the Stortford Lodge site.
Dunkerley says he has sold his majority shareholding in the Hastings store but has retained a “significant interest,” of about 25 percent.
The move into Radius, a conglomerate of five other pharmacists with 35 stores nationwide, was not taken lightly.
“The Stortford Lodge pharmacy has been an important part of my life for 33 years.”
He admits it will be difficult to take a back seat but feels the time is right to expand his pharmaceutical interests.
However he will still pop in and have a chat with his customers.
“My heart is still there,” he says smile.
The move upstairs to the board of Radius will enable him to fulfil an old dream – to run a nationwide pharmacy chain.
Rules have been relaxed in the sector recently to allow individuals to own no more than five pharmacies.
Radius now has four in Hawke’s Bay, three near the site of the Doctors’ surgeries in Napier, Hastings and Greenmeadows and of course Dunkerley’s Stortford Lodge site.
The rest are spread across the North and South Islands.
And although he is looking forward to his new “governance role” he will miss the interaction with customers on the shop floor.
But he believes it is time for a change and he has always embraced that quality.
In 1986 he took full advantage of a review of the Sunday trading laws and became the first pharmacist in the country to open his store seven days a week 13 hours a day.
Dunkerley’s rationale for opening on Sunday was simple, but visionary at that time.
“People don’t get sick Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.”
The numbers of people that came into the store were testimony to that.
“The first week was incredible. Saturday was full and Sunday even more so… even on prescriptions.”
He never looked back, and his favourite day for trading is still a Sunday.
“The difference on that day is that you have time to have a chat with people.”
That connection with his customers probably explains the success of the store and his foray into public life.
He has topped the poll at the last two Hawke’s Bay District Health Board elections.
He attributes that to a bit of name recognition, at least first time round.
Although he hopes his subsequent success is due to a little bit more than the Dunkerley label.
“Hopefully it’s not just for selling Lotto tickets but a recognition that I did a reasonable sort of job first time round,”
His experience on the health board will stand him in good stead for his new role at Radius but more importantly it will allow him a little bit more time to enjoy the finer things in life – such as his garden, the aviary, the orchids, a collection of classic cars, and last, but certainly not least, his family
The thrice-married Dunkerley has a wife, three children, one step child, a couple of grandkids and his mother Jane to share his time with.
He is “immensely proud” that one of his sons, Adam, joined him in the family business in a management role for Radius.
Dunkerley laughs that his son’s best attribute is his ability to manage “the old man,”
The relatively recent arrival of grandsons Cooper and Flynn also convinced him to step back a bit.
The transplanted Englishman even convinced his mother to move out to Hawke’s Bay from the UK at the ripe old age of 87 with his stepfather.
And with his family around him and the charm of his settler-era house in Havelock North to enjoy it’s easy to see why he wants to ease off from the day-to-day grind.
Dunkerley admits to being fortunate, even blessed.
The self-styled “refugee from Harold Wilson (a former UK Prime Minister)” has come a long way away from his northern English roots and although he visits the old country regularly he is happy where he is.
“I live in utopia – the best place in the world,”
And looking out on a view of the Bay on a beautiful, late winter Hawke’s Bay afternoon it is hard to disagree with his outlook.
He’s as lucky as one of his Lotto winners.
Photo caption – A GREEN PRESCRIPTION: Peter Dunkerley admires his orchids in Havelock North. HB TODAY PICTURE PAUL TAYLOR