Rush Munro’s Story 1964

In December 1964 a programme was broadcast on the National network describing one of Hastings’ greatest attractions for visitors. It also told, largely in Mr. F. C. Rush-Munro’s own words, the story of the founding and development of the “Garden of Sweets”. The following account is compiled from the broadcast and Mr. Rush-Munro’s notes.

Arriving in Hastings in 1926, Mr. Rush-Munro had had years of success and failure in the confectionery business elsewhere. He was tired and depressed and had only £10 but, with his wife who had always been a joint owner, it was decided to start again. For £3-10-0 a week a shop was rented in Heretaunga Street opposite the Cosy theatre (now the Embassy). A coke stove was hired for sugar boiling and enough materials procured to make a few sweets.

On Friday 26th. May the shop opened with an offering of 7 varieties of toffee and candies. They were all sold by the evening. Mr. and Mrs. Rush-Munro had decided that they would sell only goods made by themselves and, as business developed later, these comprised a larger variety of sweets, chocolates with centres of their own manufacture, ice creams and fruit drinks. The first ice cream was made in a hand churn using ice and salt as the freezing mixture.

Fresh fruits in season, strawberries, raspberries and passion fruit were added to the ice cream. The only advertisement ever used was the shop window.

Then on February 3rd. 1931 came the earthquake. The shop suffered great damage, the stock of ice cream went to the sailors of H. M. S. Veronica who were clearing debris from the streets; the sweets and

Page 2

fruit went to the hospitals.  After a short period working in the emergency food depot, Mr. and Mrs. Rush-Munro decided to start once again, but this time it was to be away from the bricks and mortar. An empty section was purchased well out of town at 704 Heretaunga Street West, the present side, and it is thought the first transfer of land after the ‘quake. Business friends who still clung to the old centre said it was commercial suicide, so Mr. and Mrs. Rush-Munro had to prove that this was wrong.

While a building was being erected, ice cream and drinks were made and sold in a tent.  With building completed, production was once again in full swing with 50-60 varieties of chocolates, many different kinds of sweets and an increasing range of ice creams and fruit drinks.  Business came quickly but the surroundings had to be made attractive with a pergola and wooden table and chairs set out on a concrete floor.  Service was in the open, with a roof on the pergola when winter came.  The next addition was a lily pool with goldfish and, to provide the continual flow of water, an artesian well was sunk.  At night the fountain in the centre of the pool was illuminated by a coloured light.  Later the adjoining section was bought for the purpose of building a hall, but this was discarded in favour of a garden with another pool and lanterns.  A visit to the Far East contributed further inspiration with beds of peonies, Japanese irises around the pool and four unusual palm trees brought from Japan in a stone dish and still flourishing to-day.

Later a drinking fountain and stone seat incorporated in the street boundary wall added further amenities.  A string of coloured lights across the street was switched on at night to indicate the

Page 3

hours of business.  A large aviary filled with many foreign birds was a further attraction.

The surroundings were now not only pleasing to the eye but also congenial to work in.  A modern refrigerating plant was installed and the range of ice creams was extended.  Milk and cream was supplied by one farm, strawberries, raspberries, lemons and walnuts came from local growers, passion fruit arrived from Keri Keri, oranges from California and crushed pineapple from Hawaii.  In additional to these fruits, the flavours of genuine vanilla, coffee and chocolate provided further variety.

In 1937 it was decided to close the business for a fortnight to give staff and owners a holiday – another mad thing to do in those days according to orthodox business friends.  A half price day was held on the Saturday, all the stock was sold and the customers reappeared when they opened again, so this became an annual winter event.  Profit was never the main object, it was always secondary to the provision of articles to eat or drink which were genuine natural products, pleasing to the palate and eye.  Nothing was ever sold that did not satisfy the owners themselves – they would simply discard the batch.

Then in 1939 came the 2nd. World War. With the departure of the elder son on military service, the birds went to the Cornwall Park aviary.  Rationing and limited supplies of sugar, an essential ingredient in every product, led to curtailment of manufacture and business was often open for only an hour or two each day when stocks would be exhausted.

Page 4

After the end of the war satisfactory conditions resumed until in 1949 ill-health compelled Mr. Rush-Munro to retire.  The business was sold to the present owner, Mr. J. Caulton, under whose guidance the original standards and ideals have been maintained while improvements and new ideas have been introduced.

Original digital file


Non-commercial use

Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).


Commercial Use

Please contact us for information about using this material commercially.

Can you help?

The Hawke's Bay Knowledge Bank relies on donations to make this material available. Please consider making a donation towards preserving our local history.

Visit our donations page for more information.

Business / Organisation


Format of the original

Typed document

Date published



Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.