Member Spotlight: The Mussel Inn celebrates 25 years in business
Located in the heart of Golden Bay in the northwest region of the South Island, The Mussel Inn boasts fresh beer brewed onsite, one of the most sought after stages for local musicians…and now 25 years under their belt.
We caught up with Jane Dixon, co-owner of The Mussel Inn (alongside husband Andrew Dixon) to reflect on the past 25 years at The Mussel Inn.
Jane shares some insights to their longevity in an industry full of ups and downs.
Tell us about the beginnings of The Mussel Inn
Jane: The Mussel Inn started with humble beginnings at a time when café culture wasn’t really a thing in New Zealand, back in 1992.
It was just at a turning point when liquor licencing laws had just changed and it meant smaller places could be more family friendly. We jumped in at the right time since we wanted to make a place that was good for our family and friends – a place that
we’d like to go to ourselves.
That was the inspiration.
Before we started the business, we used to be involved in a music festival down in Canterbury. It’s something that we really liked
and enjoyed so it’s been a big part of our business. We’re now at a point that we book gigs up to a year in advance.
The brewery opened up three years later in 1995. This was way before there was a thing called craft beer but there were a few little breweries around. Before then, the only beers we had on tap were from the local breweries in the area.
Andrew, my husband, was also a home brewer at the time and wanted to make beer here. So ever since we started brewing on-site, we stopped keeping other beers on tap and only serve our own.
You’ve been in a business a long time. What is the secret to your longevity?
Jane: We have really great staff and we’re really greatly supported by our local community. They appreciate us being here so it makes us feel like we’re doing a worthwhile job.
We’ve committed to being here in the area – we want to live here, with our families, and it’s a community effort. We own the property and live out back behind the business, but we planted the trees on the property and they’re almost like our children now too – we’ve watched them grow.
We’re pretty loyal and we feel we’ve got a commitment to our customers and community. Half our staff have been here for more than five years and our brewer is approaching twenty years with us come this September. Things come up through the years that are difficult, but you get through them.
It’s bigger than just us.
It’s full on busy in the summer, but in the winter it gets pretty quiet so we close for about six weeks in the winter and everyone takes a break together and comes back fresh.
The Mussel Inn boasts a year-long waitlist for local musicians to take the stage. Photo courtesy of NZ Life & Leisure, Tessa Chrisp
What are some of the most memorable moments over the last 25 years?
Jane: Opening was pretty memorable, with a crowd of people waiting to be let in. That was the type of support we had from the community, which was wonderful. It just went like a rocket from day one.
After a few days, I was crying from being so overwhelmed by the success of it. It was an amazing problem to have…I can’t imagine what it would be like to open something and then sit around waiting for people to come.
For me particularly though, last year, there was a German guy that came in on New Year’s Eve. He came to visit us in one of the first couple of years that we were open – he would have been in his twenties at the time. He came back last year because he remembered the experience for 24 years and it was the one thing he wanted to do on his trip to New Zealand last year. And he was so excited it was the same owners. The trees had all grown up a lot, but it was pretty much what he remembered.
So that was a moment.
We have quite a lot of younger customers now that remember swinging on the trees when they were children, and now they’re bringing their own children in for the same experience. The longevity of the place seems to be an attraction in itself.
The longevity of the place seems to be an attraction in itself.
What are some of your thoughts around the current landscape of hospitality in New Zealand?
Jane: Well, the food safety regulations have become more time consuming and the new Health and Safety Act has a lot more extra work now…it’s all manageable but it’s not really what you want to do. What you want to do is run a hospitality business for people’s enjoyment.
With how much New Zealand loves café culture and going out to restaurants, Kiwis just need a bit of a change in mindset in how the staff are viewed and treated. It’s getting a bit tricky with the minimum wage increase as it’s become a bit out of hospitality’s league. I support the wage increase because people have to live, but then customers will need to understand that this will need to be reflected in price increases as well.
Immigration has been a hot topic and I know that the Restaurant Association has been on top of the issue with the Government and I’m pleased to see that. A lot of overseas people are trained in hospitality and they have
really great attitudes.
Ultimately, we need to make Kiwis understand that hospitality can be a career for New Zealanders and can be a rewarding and worthy job for life.
Located in Onekaka, Golden Bay, The Mussel Inn is an intimate, rustic venue featuring a menu of bar fare and simple mains, plus regular live music. www.musselinn.co.nz