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New owners of Four Square Tapanui ditch the rat race and embrace country living

6 July 2023

The new owners of Four Square Tapanui are finally living their long-held dream of owning their own supermarket.

James and Tessa Fabian recently moved from Auckland down to West Otago to take the reins of the store.

The couple ditched the corporate life to realise their shared goal of owning their own business together. James has a background in Finance, he started his career with NZ stock exchange and worked in a number of investment banks in London, while Tessa’s career has been in FMCG on the supplier side. Tessa has worked for a number of international companies including Fonterra where she was most recently the Global Marketing Manager for Anchor.

James and Tessa are eternally grateful to Foodstuffs South Island for helping them make the transition, providing support and guidance whenever they’ve needed it.

A passion for food and supermarkets have been a constant for the couple, and the Fabian family has had a long association with the grocery industry, so growing up, supermarkets were always a popular topic of conversation at the dinner table.

You could almost say the industry is in the Fabian family DNA; James’ brother Paul is the owner operator of New World Carterton, and their father Graham is the owner operator of New World Stonefields in Auckland (due to retire in March 2024). Graham has been an owner operator for 16 years as well as 10 years in senior management roles at Foodstuffs.

After returning from the UK in 2015, James said goodbye to his finance career and put in the hard yards working at Foodstuffs stores, New World and PAK’nSAVE, to gain the experience and opportunities he needed as part of the journey to ownership, including roles as a Grocery Manager, Deli Manager and Store Manager.

Armed with supermarket and industry nous, James and Tessa began the process to be approved as Four Square operators. As part of that process they travelled the whole of the South Island, visiting 37 Four Squares from Bluff to Havelock. After talking to the owners, they got a good grasp of what it would be like to own a Four Square on the Mainland.

“All the other owners we’ve met have been really supportive, they’re a great bunch down here,” James says.

During their trip, they met former Four Square Tapanui owner operator Matt Saunders and, five months later, the opportunity to step in and take the reins came up.

“Our biggest achievement is getting here after eight years of a lot of hard work and sacrifice,” James says.

“We’ve been really determined to own a supermarket and we have both been very focused on obtaining the right skills, capability and experience to ensure when the opportunity arose, we were ready to move into store ownership.”

“We’re really happy in this community, Tapanui is a lovely town, and everyone has been so friendly and welcoming,” Tessa adds.

Making the move south with their twin daughters, Ella and Sophia, the couple are loving the change in pace and lifestyle.

They are very focused on customer service and often go the extra mile for their local community and customers who choose Four Square Tapanui as their local supermarket.

“Four Square is really important element of the community as an employer and a provider of good quality fresh food,” Tessa says.

“As a locally owned and operated supermarket, we take great pride in serving the community and being at the heart of it.”

Together with their staff they focus on going the extra mile for customers, often carrying customers’ shopping bags to the car, or calling customers direct if there’s a product they’ve been waiting for and it’s back in stock. The other week, Tessa drove a customer down to the doctor because her car had broken down.

Four Square Tapanui is one of the major sponsors for numerous local community groups, including the golf club, rugby club, and bowls club. The store has also recently provided hamper giveaways for a local Pink Ribbon charity event, duck shooting competitions, and sponsored the grazing table at the West Otago Theatrical Society.

“We see our role as quite central in the community and this community is one where everyone plays a role in making Tapanui a great place to live,” Tessa says.

“There’s 59 clubs in a town of just over 700 people. It has that real community feel, people really get behind the things in town.

“There’s lots of people in the community with who wear numerous hats in West Otago, it’s an area where everyone pitches in and helps each other out, and we’re really focused on doing our part as one of the bigger businesses in town.”