Starting a business has been full of positives for Andrew Wood and Lili Calva, the owners of Tūrangi's latest eatery, The Hare and Copper.
The pair moved to Tūrangi just over a year ago, and haven't looked back.
"At first I was pretty nervous about the move," says Lili, who grew up in Mexico.
"I thought living in a small rural town might be too much of an adjustment, as I've always lived in big cities."
Andrew came across the restaurant while Lili was visiting family in Mexico with their young daughter Emilia.
"We'd looked at business opportunities all over the North and South Island, but we kept coming back to Tūrangi" says Andrew.
"My family has a bach at Kuratau and I've been coming to Ruapehū to ski for as long as I can remember. Finally the right opportunity arose, so we decided to make the leap and start the business."
Andrew and Lili did most of the renovation work themselves, transforming what was previously River Wines Vineyard and Restaurant into a new bar and eatery. They opened in February 2020, getting in touch with local iwi to arrange a blessing.
"Connecting with the local Māori culture here is really important to us, including learning about the history of the land and the people that have lived here for generations" says Andrew.
The pair see their business as a way to connect with and support the Turangi community. They hire and train local people, and invite local musicians like Marich Young-Moeke to perform during summer weekends.
"Turangi has so much to offer, there are so many amazing talented people living here. Over time we want to create a summer series of events to encourage visitors to the area, and put Tūrangi back on the map" says Andrew, who spent 20 years working as a chef in Hawke's Bay, Melbourne, and Wellington, where he was head chef at El Matador on Cuba St.
Andrew and Lili are not afraid to try new things. The Hare and Copper's five-course degustation menu received rave reviews, and more than 160 people attended their recent drag show evening.
"People travelled from all over the Central North Island to visit us. They loved it!" says Lili, who met Andrew while working at El Matador.
The Hare and Copper now has a strong base of repeat customers, including some who fly in to the neighbouring airfield to pop in for lunch.
"Our vision is to create a space where people can relax and enjoy informal dining, without compromising on quality and service" says Andrew.
The couple have participated in campaigns to help promote Tūrangi, and recently hosted the town's Business After Five event, organised by Enterprise Great Lake Taupō.
"We've felt very humbled by the welcome we have received in Tūrangi. We have no regrets about our move from Wellington. It's a very supporting community with so much to offer," says Lili.