Ōtaki man Moni Pu'e has set up a distribution business to honour the promise made to his late brother, Mongrel Mob member Tagaloa (known as Law), that their family would never go hungry again.
His Law 13 range of locally-made wine, gin and vodka will be launched in Porirua on February 13.
The two brothers grew up in a large Samoan/ Tokelauan family in East Porirua. Times were hard and there was often not enough food to go around.
"Mum and Dad worked day and night. Mum left treats for us to eat, but by the time the older kids had theirs, we were left with scraps or nothing at all."
Life was an endless treadmill of getting by on not enough, no hope, no future.
Moni Pu'e, aged 12, told his older brother Tagaloa that he was going to make sure when they were older, they would never go hungry again. Nearly three decades later, he has not gone back on his word.
Moni describes himself as the dreamer of the family. Tagaloa was the fighter, like a bulldog, the symbol of the Mongrel Mob of which he became a member of in Porirua.
"He changed his name to Law by deed poll because he was angry people did not pronounce his real name properly, referring to him as tag-a-lower."
At first Moni said he wanted to be just like his older brother. He tried to join the gangs, picked fights and was headed on the same path. Law, though, had other ideas. He beat his younger brother up in town in front of a crowd, just to humiliate Moni and "knock some sense into me".
Things between the brothers escalated. Law stole Moni's ghetto blaster and walked down the street blatantly with it on his shoulders.
"I noticed my music had stopped and saw Law outside with my stereo. I chased him down the street and ended up in an alley with a concrete garage at the end. He smashed my head against the concrete and then kicked me in the face with his steel-capped boots."
Wiping the blood off his face at home, Moni was confronted by his father mournfully surveying the cracked eye socket, broken nose and jaw. He said, "That's what you get if you want to be like your brother."
Moni said he decided then and there, he was not going follow in his older brother's footsteps.
"I left home, lived on the streets and eventually ended up in a good foster home."
He started work in the local supermarket as a trolley boy, then in the storeroom.
"I taught myself to read and write, by comparing words like spaghetti on tins with the goods inward list."
He worked his way out of the storeroom, every day focusing on his goal that his family would never go hungry again.
By 1998 Moni had his own retail distribution company operating out of Ōtaki. He recalls that one day he made a delivery to Porirua and ran into his older brother. They ended up reconnecting through rugby league.
Several years later, out of the blue, Law popped into Moni's home and stayed over for the night. Law told his brother he didn't want him to follow in his footsteps.
"You are meant for better things, Moni," he told him.
Law's only work was for the gang, usually up north. He had three children living in state housing in Porirua. They had no hope, and no prospects of a different life. As a patched gang member, he had limited job prospects. Moni knew how much his brother cared about his children and desperately wanted their lives to be better.
"I realised the only way things could turn around was to help Law get a regular job. I thought if I could help him start up with a job and give him a chance to prove himself, he could take on his own distribution area within my business."
In 2004, the contract was all ready to be signed when Moni got a call from his sister to say their brother had passed away aged 34 years. To this day, he doesn't really know how Law died, but his death was closely followed by their father's.
The grief was too much for Moni, and for him, the world stopped.
"I gave up on life really. I shut down the distribution business and just did short term jobs."
Three years later, Moni decided to get "off his arse" and get his life back on track. He and his new partner set a target to be mortgage-free within five years. They put everything into buying homes and fixing them up, spending night and day working on properties until eventually they were able to buy Riverslea Retreat in Ōtaki.
Having both set up the retreat business, Moni considered the future of his late brother's children.
"One of my nieces aged 22 still lives with her aunt and nine children in Porirua. She shares a bedroom with two of her cousins. Her wages barely cover expenses, and her siblings' prospects are just as grim."
Moni decided now was the time to look at the distribution business again and how it might help his brother's children.
"I can't see any hope of them having their own homes any time soon with things the way they are with wages and rental costs."
After lockdown, he set up League Beverages distributing wine, gin and vodka under the Law 13 label. The name is in honour of his brother Law, whose birthday was on November 13. The wine is sourced from Ohau vineyards and the gin and vodka are sourced from Tirau Limited in Paraparaumu Beach.
Moni says he will push the business as far as he can so he can employ his nephews and nieces.
"I will teach them the ropes and then when they are ready, give them the Wellington/Porirua/Hutt Valley territory to work. I would still oversee the business and mentor them to succeed."
Having worked in the highly competitive supermarket business for 30 years, Moni says the wine and spirit business is a more profitable market for investors. He advocates responsible drinking.
Moni is launching the Law 13 range of wines and spirits at Black Bull Liquor in Porirua on February 13, back in the city where he and his brother's journey began. The range will be stocked by other Black Bull and Liquor King franchised stores in the lower North Island.
"I hope, by giving my nieces and nephews a chance, they can have a better life, and by helping them, I can honour my promise to Law, that our family will never go hungry again," said Moni.