The Avoca Hotel in Upokongaro has a new leasee and will get a new name.
After 30 years of working in the shadows, Leanne Black is ready to break out of her shell and test herself in the world of business.
Although this is her first time running a business, Black has vast experience in catering and hospitality, spending 30 years in the kitchen at Whanganui Girls College Ad Astra hostel and most recently at the Maraenui Golf Club in Napier.
Everything has fallen into place and now is the perfect time in her life for this venture, Black said.
"I've always wanted to be in business. It's always been something I've wanted to get to. I just recently turned 50. I have four sons, and it's a risk I could never take because I had young children. So now it's my time."
After hearing that Avoca Hotel was on the market, she made a few calls. Within 24 hours, Black secured a place to live and was the new leasee of the hotel.
Black has only been in Whanganui for the last week, after living in Napier for a year. She noted she had a breakdown and needed to escape.
"I needed to get away from Whanganui. So I went to Napier where my father was, and I healed over there. I'm ready to come back with a stronger attitude."
With the support of friends and family, and a burning desire to succeed, Black returns to Whanganui to give it everything she's got.
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"I really have to back myself up. I'm open to the public eye now. I used to be hidden in the hostel, I was always scared to venture out because I didn't know if I would be good enough or not."
The establishment will be renamed to the Riverboat Cafe & Bar, a name it had in a former life. Black will be turning the establishment into a home-style cafe and restaurant where families can enjoy each other's company.
"I want to promote families having time together. Sitting down at a table and eating and having that table talk. That's something that we are losing.
"I want to get that back going again. I really miss that and really want to promote that in my business."
The establishment is going to have a country-theme; with a big open fire, couches and a place where people can "sit back and relax."
Aware of the workload ahead, Black said she has many friends and family members who will help kick-start the restaurant.
"They want me to see me succeed."
Black notes her passion for people and food as the key to her success.
"I love people. I love meeting people. I love talking to people."
Black is aware of potential difficulties being out of the Whanganui centre, but she is focusing on delivering one thing: good home-style food.
"If I can get them to the door, I feel like I can keep them. We just gotta get them to that door."
Black notes carrot cake muffins, cheese and date orange scones and pavlova as staples in her cooking repertoire.
The opening day for the establishment will be March 19, where there will be a roast with a smorgasbord along with a complimentary wine or beer for $30 a head.