Hotel Royalty

Marty Fuller’s contribution for over 40 years to the hospitality industry, the sporting and general community has been massive, particularly in Canterbury where he currently owns and operates, along with his wife Naomi, the very popular national award winning Elmwood Trading Company hotel/restaurant.

Recently the establishment, based in the Christchurch suburb of Strowan, received one of the most prestigious awards in the New Zealand hospitality industry when it was voted the country’s best local bar and eatery, a continuation of his outstanding success in this very competitive and at times cut-throat industry. In fact he’s now won four national awards over the years in the industry.

Marty and Naomi have owned the Elmwood Trading Company for three and half years and their clientele are solely locals from the area.

The award won’t surprise anyone who knows how Marty runs a pub. His infectious smile, humour and genuine warmth of personality, plus his generosity to the community are key ingredients in his success along with his astute business skills.

Being based in the Garden City, it certainly hasn’t been plain sailing. His business entities have survived the disastrous 2011 earthquake and the current covid pandemic to emerge as owner of the best pub in the country.

Sport has played a big part in Marty’s success in working life since he first cut his teeth in the 1970s pouring beers part time in Wellington bars and as a participant he’s had a crack at many codes.

“The hotel industry and sport, including racing, have long been intertwined and are beneficial to both. Sport, the community including schools, being involved is a key part of running a pub”, he said.

Marty quickly graduated from part time barman to duty manager in Wellington and after a stint overseas from 1977-80 where he headed off with a back pack full of dreams, he came back and settled in Christchurch to take up the position of assistant manager of the popular and iconic Shades Tavern which he later purchased.

Although by his own admission, a humble club battler as a sportsman, he loved playing a variety of sports which always tied in well with the hospitality industry and promoting his business interests.

“The hotel industry and sport, including racing, have long been intertwined and are beneficial to both. Sport, the community including schools, being involved is a key part of running a pub”

Born in Blenheim, Marty represented Marlborough at schoolboy level in cricket as an opening batsman, playing in the South Island primary schools tournament at Gore in 1966.

He played in the Nelson College 2nd 11 cricket side, the first 15 rugby team and represented the school in rifle shooting as well as rowing.
n the early 1970s, Marty played senior third division rugby in Wellington for Athletic as well as Mercantile league cricket, social basketball, volleyball and tennis.

Moving back to Blenheim briefly in 1976/77, Marty played senior B rugby for the former Opawa (Black Cloud) club in Blenheim and senior cricket for the Wairau Club.

While in Australia during an overseas adventure between 1977/1980, the versatile sportsman managed the Orange Emu senior rugby team in New South Wales and during that time overseas he watched live all but two All Blacks tests played outside New Zealand including the Graham Mourie 1978 Grand Slam winning side’s tests in Great Britain.

On settling in Christchurch, Marty became player coach of a University Club rugby team from 1983/86 and in 1985 formed The Shades Tavern 1st X1 cricket side which played in the fifth grade competition for the Riccarton Club and during a 17 year period they won the competition several times.
Knight of The Elm

Golf and horse racing are also passions of his. He’s a member of the Clearwater Golf Club and has shared in ownership of a number of both standard bred and thoroughbred race horses, his crowning glory there was taking out the Nelson Trotting Cup with The Captain.

He’s also toured extensively around the world hosting rugby tour groups and he said the link between sport and his business was an important part of his success.

While mostly successful, Marty said it was tough going at times in an industry that is very competitive. While there is no one key ingredient to a successful hotel business, he said it’s a combination of things such as location, the quality of product, food being a key and of course drinks selection. Having good staff is another big key and he reckons, “If you’ve got good staff, do everything you can to hold onto them.”

Among the many bars Marty has owned or part-owned include the Craic Irish Bar, Trevino’s Restaurant, Vines Wine Bar, Sneakers Sports Cafe, The Bard on Avon, Grapes Wine Bar, the Bog Irish Bar in Christchurch and Auckland, the Yacht Club Hotel in Picton, Trader McKendry’s, the Rose and Thistle, the Clocktower Bar and All Bar One.

“If you’ve got good staff, do everything you can to hold onto them.”

In addition he held the liquor concession at Lancaster Park for around six years in the 1990s, being responsible for all the food and beverage catering for events including sports internationals and music concerts. He held the same license for QE2 Park which also used to old big sporting and music events until the earthquake destroyed it.

His expertise is highly valued by many organisations and in 1991 he was elected President of the Canterbury Branch of the Hotel Association/Hospitality NZ. He still sits on that committee and is a life member.

He’s also a life member of the Hotel Association of New Zealand where he has also had a long active and productive involvement.

His golf involvement includes being a founding trustee of the Lancaster Park Museum Trust and as a sideline to his Shady Tours organisation which promotes trips, their famous court sessions raised over $50,000 for Ronald McDonald House.

As a life member of the Nelson College Old Boys Association he has helped raise over $40,000 for the school.

Recounting his life in the hospitality industry and community organisations, Marty’s justifiably proud of his achievements and when you look at his massive contribution not only to the Hotel Industry but in being involved, serving on committees supporting sports and community organisations, all, apart from a couple of small honorariums, for the the love of his community, you wonder why hasn’t been recognised in a New Years honours list.

Sir Marty Fuller. It’s got a nice ring to it and there’s far more people who have received knighthoods who have made lesser contributions to society than this very popular publican.

Watch Marty’s very interesting life story video below and he’ll tell you how and why his pubs have been so successful and what a very full and productive life he’s enjoyed and is still enjoying working full-time well into his 60s.

Interview & Words by John Alexander | Header Image: Marty & Naomi with Award. Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.


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