A Napier home and garden machines business has been sold by the couple who transformed it from a traditional lawnmower sales and services shop with a history dating back to before World War I.

With a quarter-century of their own in the game, Craig and Vicki Macmillan had their last day in the Stihl Shop in Thackeray St on Monday, handing over the keys to new owners Marty and Debbie Leach.

The Macmillans started out in a now recently demolished building a few hundred metres away on the corner of Kennedy Rd and Owen St, where brothers Wally and Artie Watts extended their motorbike and car repair business (started in 1912) by branching into the growing motor trade about the time of World War II, which ended in 1945.

The big change came when the business moved to new premises in 2003 and rebranded as a Stihl Shop the following year under a sale and support arrangement. The business has become one of the largest in the country, with 71 retail sites nationwide as of the latest addition last week.


The biggest changes were the transformation from a mainly Monday to Friday operation to seven-days-a-week retailing, and the diversification required as society changed, including people getting contractors to do the lawns instead of mowing their own.

The extended hours were something they had to do, Craig Macmillan said.

"I see retailing this way," he said. "You open when the public want you to open."

Maintaining the repairs and servicing side of the business throughout, the trade had developed across the full range of powered and other equipment for mowing, lopping and trimming - and the essentials for winding down afterwards, such as barbecues.

Marty Leach went to school in Napier, and had 25 years in the army. Wife Debbie, from Zimbabwe, has a medical profession background.

They raised their children in Napier, and after some years away saw the opportunity to return when they became aware about four months ago the business was on the market.