Things aren’t looking good for Aaron Drever’s latest venture called the Grocer’s Market. Regular readers know that we have covered stories about Aaron Drever before. We’ve been keeping a close eye on his latest business and, it appears, so have Radio NZ.
Despite having no grocery or retail experience, former real estate agent Aaron Drever – who was stripped of his licence in 2016 after racking up nine disciplinary findings – bought the remnants of the Mt Eden Nosh supermarket in July last year after it went into receivership, and rebranded it The Grocer’s Market.
Nosh went under owing more than 100 staff hundreds of thousands of dollars. As the business struggled to stay afloat employees were convinced to stay on and work by owner Jonathan Denize who said he would sell his house if he had to.
Mr Drever convinced workers and suppliers from the Nosh days to stay on board with the same promise, saying he would sell his house to pay them if needed.
But Checkpoint has spoken to six businesses and two former employees who are fighting to be paid, some owed tens of thousands of dollars.
Vision Fresh, a Tauranga produce company, is in the process of filing legal proceedings, claiming it is owed $25,000.
Ashish Khurana, 31, owns Khurana Cleaning Services and says he is owed $1900.
“[Aaron says] next week, next week, next week … but pays nothing, not a single penny,” Mr Khurana said.
“And yesterday I called Aaron as well, he said, ‘Just wait, I will call you after 15 minutes,’ but nobody called me.
“I called the manager of the Grocer’s Market, [they] said we don’t have any money to pay you.”
A supplier, who asked to remain anonymous, has been chasing Mr Drever for $31,000 for three months.
“He promises the world and nothing ever comes through. I had a conversation with him yesterday via text message, he was promising money today, and we’ve checked our bank account this morning, and again, nothing,” the supplier said.
Mr Drever said he would issue a written statement responding to the supplier’s concerns, but is yet to do so.
Doesn’t sound very promising. This is the true meaning of ‘on the never-never’.
Outside The Grocer’s Market last week, he told Checkpoint he “hadn’t checked the supplier ledger” so did not know if any suppliers were owed money, but reaffirmed his commitment to selling his house if need be.
“I like grocery but I guess I don’t fully understand it because I don’t come from that background,” Mr Drever said.
“I’ve come from completely left [of] centre, [I thought] ‘it can’t be that hard we just put the goods on the shelves and away we go’, but actually it’s a lot harder.
“If I had a crystal ball, if you said, ‘hey would you open a supermarket again?’ I’d say, ‘well probably next time I need a bit more grocery experience’.”
The Grocer’s Market is also currently trading illegally.
Auckland Council environmental health manager Mervyn Chetty said his staff visited after queries from Checkpoint and found “several parts of the business” have not been registered, including the grocery business itself and the cafe inside.
The council has given Mr Drever a pass this time but “highlighted the consequences that will arise if found to be unregistered in the future,” Mr Chetty said.
Our own sources confirm these details, and also that some staff have been unpaid. Informants tell us that when the store opened on 10 November 2017, just 12 weeks ago, there were around 35 staff; that number has now dwindled to around 24. The tipline is being bombarded with tales of woe.
WOBH operatives visited the Grocer’s Market on Waitangi Day where just three staff were on duty. We wanted to see for ourselves what was going on.
The biggest concern was with the butchery area, with these hams on sale under a defunct brand (Black Rock Butchery) that once was part of Nosh.
One of the hams was decidedly green/grey in colour, and the bag appeared to have inflated. The ham in front had a large blackened area under the wrapper. The ham in the middle at right was also green/grey.
Our mystery shopper popped this ham into their trolley in order to get a close-up of the label. It shows the ham was supposedly packed on 21/01/2018 and had a use by date of 4/2/2018. It was two days over the expiry date.
It might have been on special, but given the state of other hams in the chiller, I’m not sure I’d want to take the risk of eating that ham.
Confidential sources also informed us that meat is being bought for the store from Pak’nSave at the Lincoln Road branch. That meat, it appears, is being taken back to Grocer’s Market and relabelled as their own product.
We also found milk being sold on the best before date.
As our mystery shopper walked around the store there were plenty of empty and half-empty shelves.
Given the state of the hams and expired goods, it might be a good idea for the Auckland Council to pop around and check again, in the interests of public health.
Radio NZ said that the store was for sale. Be that as it may, at the present time I should think a name change may be in order. Instead of the Grocer’s Market perhaps it should be called the Grossest Market.
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