IF YOU'VE EATEN FISH AND CHIPS AT LYALL BAY, CHANCES ARE VICKI SHEN HAS CUT OR COOKED THEM. VICKI RUNS LOCAL INSTITUTION SEAVIEW TAKEAWAYS ON LYALL PARADE.
The humble fish and chip shop is a staple in most neighbourhoods and Lyall Bay's Seaview Takeaways is the perfect example of this local institution. The woman behind the scenes is Vicki Shen, and 2016 marks her 24th year at the helm of this popular local takeaway. A true Lyall Bay local Vicki lives behind the shop on Lyall Parade.
Vicki moved to New Zealand at the age of 17 and has worked in the food and hospitality industry, growing a real passion for food in this time. Her passion is evident in the assortment of homemade food she offers at the shop "A lot of my food is homemade; I make my own meat patties for instance. I also like to get feedback from my customers so I can learn from their experience with my food."
Like many of the local retailers in the area Vicki's business is very much weather orientated. "The weather has a huge impact. On a good day you've got more customers coming out this way but in a cold southerly you're not going to come here to get a face full of sand. I do have my regular local customers though; I'm not just waiting for the good weather to come. The weather lately has been pretty good and that's why you see lots of people out and about. You see a lot of family's taking their children out to the beach, you also get the dog walking crowd - it's quite romantic."
Having lived and worked in Lyall Bay for 24 years Vicki has seen her fair share of changes in the area, the biggest of which coming from the redevelopment of the wastewater treatment plant. For years Lyall Bay was associated with the stench of raw sewerage that was being discharged at Moa Point. Once this was sorted the crowds flocked back in droves and local business and real estate grew as a by-product. "In the last 10 years the population and crowds have definitely grown. People will come a long way to visit Lyall Bay, a lot of my customers come from the Hutt Valley and further afield. Some will say "I come for your chips and spring rolls, I love your homemade chips" and others just enjoy the drive out around the southern coast. But for me the area is always changing as I meet new people every day. I see families grow, children come and go, I see new faces appearing in the area and old face reappearing. It's always changing."
The all-consuming nature of small business means spare time is at a premium for Vicki, especially during the busy summer months. "It takes up a lot of time. I've got family, I have two children who go to school and I don't actually have too much time to spend with them. Sometimes I work up to 17 hours during the summertime. You have to. You can't ask your workers to stay longer with you every day so I have to be there to pick up the extra load. As a small business you have to work harder. The extra hours I do get during the winter is spent with my family."
The pull factor of Lyall Bay for Vicki, and many others, is the environment - being so close to the beach and seeing people enjoying the natural environment with friends and family is something Vicki gets a real kick out of "Being able to service this type of setting is what I enjoy. I feel like Lyall Bay is my home now, I can't leave. I can't run away from my customers. My family say you have to close for one day to relax but I just feel a bit guilty because my customers are waiting at the door, haha. So that's what keeps me going. They are what drive me to get up in the morning."
When quizzed about her ideal day in Lyall Bay Vicky paints the picture of what would appear to be that of her customer's - "When customers come in and mention how beautiful it is outside I feel it too and I enjoy it. I have a lot of customers and a lot of my customers become my friends. You have to be a friendly person and be open to everybody. I find out a lot about my customers, what's going on in their life etc. That's what I enjoy most." - a testament to the selflessness of a woman who goes above and beyond the calls of customers service.
After so long behind the counter you wouldn't blame Vicki for wanting to hand over the reins and put up her feet, but Vicki seems quite content to keep going - "I'm happy to be a part of this community and will continue to provide my best fish and chips, hamburgers, Chinese and ice creams for my valued customers. I'm happy to stay here and do my best. I'm happy for myself that I can still work and run my own business. I'm lucky. I still have the strength to work, so I will keep going"
So next time you're on the Parade be sure to pay Vicki a visit and grab yourself an ice cream while you're at it.