Hard as it is to credit, the Night Market's turned 10.
March 6 marked a decade since we had our first taste of the market's magnetic pulling power.
In 2010 there were 24 stallholders, the majority arts and crafts orientated. Now it's the cuisine from the world's four corners that occupies by far the greatest number of stalls – 65 plus at last count. Despite the naysayers who claimed the market would never take off, that it was madness to launch it as winter loomed, it's become one of this city's greatest trading success stories. It was recognised for Excellence in Event Hospitality at 2018's hospitality awards.
From day one it's Brigitte Nelson who's been steering the market to becoming one of Rotorua's most popular must-dos.
She's a bold woman, is Brigitte Nelson, not one scared of sticking her neck out.
With an extensive background in food, designer retailing and her top-notch people skills she hadn't been back in town long when she approached Nick Dallimore and Grant Kilby, then running the council's economic development unit, pitching the street market concept.
"They said the idea was already under way, that it had been a recommendation from retailers working to revive the CBD and they had someone in mind to run it. I said I could do a better job. They said 'okay do it'."
She was allocated three months to make the market happen.
It wasn't an easy ask, essentials like a power supply had to be sourced. Unison plugged in and has remained the market's principal supporter. Then there were the mundane things like tables and seating to organise but paramount was attracting potential stallholders. Some approached were hesitant others couldn't wait for the market to open.
"I must admit I did panic whether stallholders and patrons would come, I still do."
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Ten years on there's no need to market the market, it sells itself as an eating and entertainment hub.
It was Brigitte and her former late husband, Richard Lewisham, who established Lewisham's restaurant in 1986, initially trading as a delicatessen in a little house in what's now Eat Streat. It rapidly morphed into one of Rotorua's earliest European style eateries.
"It was a fun place, locals were very supportive, we soon had a loyal following, there's still a Lewisham's award presented at the national hospitality awards."
Although the couple were Aucklanders, Rotorua was very familiar to Brigitte. "I'd been coming here since I was about 10 on family holidays to Tarawera."
The couple met working in one of Auckland's top flight restaurants. "It was very flamboyant, Hudson and Halls were the chefs."
For those not of the era the duo were among this country's earliest telly cooking stars, camping it up in the 70s and 80s when being openly gay was still outlawed.
As their time at Lewisham's progressed Richard also came out as gay, an HIV-related illness subsequently claimed his life.
By then he and Brigitte had split. Lewishams was sold but remained in business until relatively recently.
Brigitte went to work for a legal firm but was bored rigid.
"I was feeling pretty devastated so returned to Auckland with our boxer dog Brook, applied to the Pope to have our marriage annulled. He declined to annul Princess Caroline's [of Monaco] but said yes to me."
Brigitte went to work with an importing company specialising in exotic upholstery fabrics and carpets.
When the owner died she moved to Nova Interiors run by sought-after designer Timi Pinfold in a "fabulous, very smart" Parnell shop. "It's where I developed my love of interiors and art."
Time with a Wellington company importing and distributing Indian cotton followed.
"That was fabulous fun. I went back to Auckland and was having a drink with my sister in the Empire Tavern when I met the designer Peter Tatham. We started talking about the lack of fabric in New Zealand. He said we had to do something about it, two weeks later we were at a trade fair in Milan, followed by fairs in London, Venice and Frankfurt, securing agencies for some of the top fabric houses.
"Back home we opened Atelier Textiles, it was fabulously successful. Auckland was booming, we secured some major corporate projects."
She and Tatham worked in partnership until the 1987 share market crash.
Brigitte remarried. "I think it was my biological clock that led to marrying again, we had two sons."
As they grew she joined Heritage Tiles before transferring back into "gorgeous imported fabrics" at Design Force. "I got to manage some pretty substantial jobs in fabulous, beautiful homes, it was fun, fabulous."
"Fabulous" is a word Brigitte subconsciously favours, check out how frequently it appears in this narrative.
What wasn't so fabulous was developing "a few health problems". These led her back to Rotorua and QE Health for three weeks of live-in treatment.
"It was really truly life-changing, at that stage I was drinking 14 cups of coffee a day, while I was there I got thinking about a future back in Rotorua, that's when the night market idea popped into my mind."
Reflecting on the huge hit it's become, as its council-employed project manager Brigitte distances herself from taking credit for it continuing to boom.
"It's been a huge team effort, it's been fabulous, not just for the stallholders and patrons but for the hundreds who've worked in very humble roles that it's helped back on their feet.
"I think of the young girl who died suddenly and was buried in her market uniform because she was so proud of her work there. It certainly does impact on these people, the market often leads them to bigger jobs because it has helped develop the confidence they lacked."
Another point of pride for Brigitte is the relationships she's developed with the market's "fabulous" traders.
"So many are from our ethnic communities. When they first come there's often language issues but now quite a number have opened their own businesses yet remain loyal to the market, I'm now seeing children manning their family's stall, that's so cool."
About Brigitte Nelson
Born: Auckland, 1956
Education: Baradene Sacred Heart College. "We lived next door, I was there throughout my schooling."
Family: Father Peter Nelson, Rotorua, mother deceased, sister, two sons, granddaughter
Interests: Extended family: "There are at least 55 of us, we are extremely tight, my family are my best friends but I have fabulous friends too."
"My caravan at Matata a group of us go there. I love my garden, I love people. I have this idea I'm working on about shared living for older single women in a community area."
Present job description: RLC's project manager, markets, festivals and projects. Oversaw the hugely successful Ohinemutu Waitangi Day celebrations.
"A truly fabulous experience."
On the Night Market: "I love to see our cultural groups expressing their homeland through food, the market's their world on a plate."
On her life: "I guess I make things happen."
On Rotorua: "It's my spiritual home."
Personal philosophy: "Show kindness, we all have the power to be kind."