Rod Fevre and Adrie Havermans know just what it takes to create an inviting space having worked front of house at their well-known Albany restaurant Totara for 12 years.
The pair carved out a reputation for serving excellent food with a warm and friendly welcome at the popular north shore dining spot and have now turned their skills to their beautiful three bedroom apartment at Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village.
It’s not just the way they have decorated their apartment but also the patio and outlook full of lush greenery that prompts a real wow factor, something that Rod gives Adrie full credit for.
“I’m just the supervisor,” he laughs.
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Adrie nods: “We had a beautiful tropical garden and I couldn’t go away for a week because the plants needed watering.
“I have never been a flower grower, I’m always about texture and leaves. Although I do grow a few beans.”
Adrie, who came to New Zealand from Holland in 1966 ‘looking for an adventure’, is modest about his gardening skills.
But he has cleverly taken full advantage of the outlook that slopes up towards Verrans Corner, layering it with hanging baskets, ponga trees and bird of paradise plants, while the sizeable patio is adorned with bromeliads, ferns and begonias.
The effect is stunning and what’s great is they can just ask their neighbours to pop over to water the plants if they go away.
Not that there were many travel options when they first moved in back in November 2019, shortly before COVID brought everything to a halt!
But it did give Adrie plenty of time to get stuck into the gardening, and they invited Rita next door to be part of their bubble.
“She’d come over for coffee and we’d sit out there and have lunch,” says Rod.
It was a far cry from their busy days running the restaurant.
“We loved it. It was like having all your friends over for dinner and the nice thing about it was, they paid!” laughs Rod.
Rod is originally from Gympie in Australia and he came to New Zealand in 1976 for a three week holiday which he never returned from!
The pair have been together almost ever since, both of them committing to the hospitality sector, despite Rod’s admission that he’d only been in a restaurant twice in his life before meeting Adrie!
Adrie originally worked for a brewer then a drug company before opening a restaurant in Balmoral called The Hotch Pot which specialised in casserole dishes.
He ended up taking over the cooking when the chef walked out then four years later he left for work opportunities on the North Shore.
Adrie (left) and Rod love spending time in their lush garden oasis which stretches the length of their three-bedroomed apartment at Bert Sutcliffe Retirement Village.
He stepped into the chef’s apron once again at the then Sussex after the original chef was tragically killed in an accident, which prompted Rod to offer to lend a hand.
“I was cleaning tables, pouring coffee, resetting the tables. Two weeks later I was Maitre D!”
When they finally took over the Albany Country Café together, turning it into a fully licensed restaurant renamed the Totara, it was only meant to be a short term venture.
“The idea was to flick it off in 12 months for a bit of capital gain, but it ended up being 12 years. It was extremely popular. And we’re still good friends with a few of our customers.”
Since moving into the retirement village, they often get looks from fellow residents who recognise them from the Totara.
“You can see they’re thinking ‘where have I seen you?’,” says Rod. “Even Leanne the Sales Advisor said ‘Oh my god, it’s the boys from the restaurant!”, which just confirmed they’d made the right choice.
It was Adrie who initiated the decision to move into the village after a culmination of needing to downsize, the burden of maintaining a house, and the fact that Rod had a massive heart attack four years ago.
“My surgeon hit the roof when he heard I’d been up on the roof waterblasting,” laughs Rod.
“One of our neighbours walked past and he said ‘go and look at Bert Sutcliffe’ so here we are.”
Adrie took to retirement living straightaway but Rod admits it took him a while to adjust to the new setting because he missed being able to go out and walk around their beautiful garden. Now they have set it up just how they like it, he says ‘I’m fine now!’.
“You realise when you have been out and you turn into the driveway and you have that feeling ‘Oh, I’m home.’
“It’s good here, it’s easy living, it’s convenient and you feel very safe. And where we are here is so private!”
They have since got to know all the people on their floor and every Sunday they all get together for drinks and nibbles.
“They’re like our family,” says Rod.