100 years of Four Square: Visiting all 225 stores

Four Square grocery stores arguably sit alongside a small collection of immediately recognisable New Zealand emblems such as pavlova, jandals, the Buzzy Bee and the All Blacks.

This year marks 100 years since the first Four Square shop was founded – on 4 July, 1924. The chain had its start with businessman J Heaton Barker and began with a sketch describing a co-operative buying a group of local grocers that “would stand Four Square to all the winds that blew”.

A Canterbury woman has been celebrating Four Square’s place on New Zealand’s landscape for the past three years by – wait for it – visiting all the Four Square foodmarkets around the country. All 225 of them.

Louise Wynn told Checkpoint family connections and a love of travelling and exploring Aotearoa were behind the idea.

Her sister Cushla owned the Franz Josef Four Square store at the time she set out, and a 90th anniversary Four Square tea-towel, covered with the names of places the stores were based inspired the idea.

“I like exploring New Zealand – I love New Zealand and love reading maps … and doing things with the grandchildren, and doing things I wouldn’t have done,” Wynn said.

“I love our New Zealand icons, and it’s a history.”

Four Square in Onehunga in 1948, the first 'self-service' store.

As Wynn ticked off the store locations she says her adventures quickly changed focus.

“It actually became more about store owners and the staff, more than the shops. There was lots and lots of really good store owners and we had lots of good yarns, good story-telling.

“The Four Square community are very good at supporting the community – they are very community-minded people.”

A common thread that stood out was the worry many of the owners and staff had over shoplifting and theft, she said.

Rick Metcalfe and his wife Roslyn Hepana outside their Four Square store in Te Araroa, on the East Cape.

Visiting the furthest south, on Stewart Island, was a memorable trip that stands out – “That was really cool to have the excuse to go over there for the night,” Wynn said.

At each store, she made a purchase, took a photo and kept the receipt to record her odyssey.

The Rahotu Four Square in Taranaki.

Today, to mark the last store ticked off on her list, Wynn visited her local Four Square in the Mackenzie District town of Fairlie. There, she was joined by the owners, her sister, and a group of representatives from the company’s executive team.

Wynn made her customary purchase that she has made at each store, photos were taken, a cake cut, and together they celebrated the chain’s 100th anniversary.

“It was quite a gathering”, Wynn said.

And of completing her challenge she said: “It’s been a mission, but it’s been so so worth it.”

Four Square St Heliers

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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