Matt and Tonii Wright, formerly of Rotorua, opened the Ohai Oasis milk bar in the western Southland town on Friday. It is the first food shop to operate in Ohai since a fish and chip business closed about 12 years ago.
Vertebra and spine injuries changed Matt Wright’s plans from becoming a dentist in western Southland to a milk bar owner.
When the milk bar, Ohai Oasis, opened its door for the first time in Ohai on Friday, it became the first shop in the town since a fish and chip business closed about 12 years ago.
Wright injured his spine and crushed a vertebra when falling off a removal truck during his and wife Tonii’s move to Ohai two years ago. Matt was a dentist in Rotorua.
The injury caused him to lose feeling in his fingers and hands, and halted his career as a dentist. An operation was needed, but it was delayed and didn’t get performed until last week.
* New business owners in western Southland plan to give away vegetables
* New hospitality business to open in small Southland settlement
* Entrepreneurial brothers find ways to support western Southland communities
“It’s 50/50 whether I get back to dentistry” Wright said.
He and Tonii visited Ohai during a visit to Southland in 2017. They took a shine to Ohai and went on to buy an old church there in 2019. They transformed it into their home.
Eighteen months ago when Matt was unable to work as a dentist, the couple started thinking about opening a shop in Ohai, across the road from their home.
The building for the shop had been used by different businesses over the decades, including a hairdresser and legal firm. The Wrights have spent $80,000 on turning the building into a milk bar.
It was a memorable occasion when it opened on Friday, Matt said.
“When you consider what it was like a year and a half ago, which was basically a derelict building with a flax bush outside, broken windows and rotten floor.
“It’s been a labour of love … we restored the building and get free rental.”
The Wrights have installed to the exterior of the building a charging station for electric vehicles.
Customers of the milk bar on Friday agreed the business was great for Ohai.
Sheep and beef farmer Louise Terry said: “It’s good for the community and getting people out and about, mixing and mingling.”
Linda Ransfield, who has lived in Ohai for 40 years, always thought a new shop would open in the town one day.
“It’s been coming, but [the question was] who was going to do it,” Ransfield said.
Wool buyer David McKitterick said: “It’s really good to have it … it’ll do well.”