Cafe owner following late mentor's lead

By Alisa Yong alisa.yong@age.co.nz -
1 comment
Owner of Wild Oats Crystal Thompson hopes up to live up to the legacy of former owner Martin Chait. PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA
Owner of Wild Oats Crystal Thompson hopes up to live up to the legacy of former owner Martin Chait. PHOTO/LYNDA FERINGA

A CARTERTON cafe owner is hoping to continue her mentor's legacy by giving young people "a chance".

After the recent death of the former owner of Wild Oats cafe, Martin Chait, his protege Crystal Thompson, 31, is hoping to continue his good work.

Ms Thompson said Mr Chait had been like a father to her and being without him and former co-owner Peter Gray was "quite scary to be honest, because they were two amazing people".

"Martin was like my other father -- for half of my life he's been my main man."

Too small to fulfil her childhood dream of being an air hostess, Ms Thompson was hired by Mr Gray and Mr Chait as a part-time dishwasher about 15 years ago. By the age of 18, she was the manager.

The pair helped her to buy a house and when Mr Gray died, Mr Chait encouraged her to become his business partner, saying "you are already working super-hard, you might as well work towards something for yourself".

The cafe employs 18 staff, many of whom were young people, she said.

"I was given that chance so I want to do that as well. People don't want to give young people a chance like I was given a chance, so in a way age shouldn't be a factor."

She aspires to being the kind of mentor that Mr Chait was to her, she said. "I'd like to be one [a mentor]. I feel there's not enough kindness in the world some days. We are so lucky to have the town that we are in and the country that we are in when you see what happens in other places. We need to pay a bit more gratitude."

Originally from Wellington, Mr Gray and Mr Chait had introduced new ideas about food to both the staff and customers, Ms Thompson said.

"Fifteen years ago trying to serve bacon and blue cheese -- it was just like 'what are you trying to do?' It was so nice to have these two guys bring this to Carterton."

Ms Thompson had begun the process of buying out Mr Chait several years ago, but he would still be sorely missed.

"Everyone has got a story about Martin. He has always been a generous soul that helped."

She said she had been lucky to have had such amazing mentors in her life.

"So that's why I feel now I have to do them justice."

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