Just under 100 years ago, the Four Square grocery co-operative was formed by a group of independent grocers to pool their buying power in order to compete against the big grocery chain stores of the day. Today, every Four Square is still independently owned and operated, from tiny rural shops to the larger mini-supermarkets found in the cities. At Britomart, the new owner-operator is Mark Coulston, a returning Aucklander who's come back from the far north to become part of the downtown community. We talked to him about what’s in store (no pun intended) for the new supermarket and how they’re planning to become an essential part of the neighbourhood.
MELINDA WILLIAMS Hi Mark! Is this your first time as an owner-operator of a Four Square?
MARK COULSTON This is my second store, and I'm really looking forward to it. My journey began as a grocery assistant at Pak 'n' Save. As I continued, I realised the business world had so much to offer and was filled with endless learning opportunities. That excitement for constant learning drew me in. I moved around, gaining more knowledge about Foodstuffs and the co-op, and that's when the idea of becoming an owner-operator started to take shape. I kicked off my career as an owner-operator at Four Square in Houhora, which is a five-hour drive north of Auckland, the northernmost Four Square. It's an amazing community, and I took over that store in August 2021.
MELINDA And a little over two years later, you've moved to Auckland, obviously.
MARK Yes, I'm back in Auckland. I spent about three years up at the top of the North Island because of that store opportunity, and now I'm thrilled to be back in Auckland.
MELINDA What made you want to take on Britomart Four Square store, the first Four Square in the downtown area?
MARK The development and hard work put into the Britomart area is truly remarkable. When the chance to open a store here came up, I saw Four Square as an incredible opportunity to introduce a genuinely exceptional Kiwi-owned brand to a thriving community. We're thrilled about serving this community and ensuring we meet and deliver what matters most to our customers.
MELINDA Sounds good. Can you tell me a little bit more detail about what that offering's going to involve?
MARK We have a lot of exciting things happening! We've partnered with Flight Coffee for your coffee fix and Dedwood Deli, known for their fantastic gourmet sandwiches, oat bowls, and toasted sandwiches. Everything is freshly made every morning. We've also teamed up with Daily Bread to bring you some truly exciting products.
We're also introducing protein bowls where you can create your own salad and add your choice of protein, whether it's pork, chicken, or salmon. And here's something just in time for the New Zealand summer we've all been looking forward to – introducing Scootopia! It's an ice cream experience you won't want to miss so be sure to check it out! Our aim is to expand our food-to-go offerings so that we have something for every taste and any time of the day.
MELINDA And will people also be able to pick up a head of broccoli and a tube of toothpaste and all the other things they might normally want to get at a Four Square?
MARK Absolutely, we'll have all the things that are most important to you – delicious fresh faves and everyday essentials!
MELINDA The Hayman Kronfeld Building is such a beautiful character building. Has that influenced the fit-out of the store in any way?
MARK Anyone who walks in can see how amazing this building is. The combination of modern shop fixtures while preserving its character really gives the store a special atmosphere. It's unique in that way, and we're incredibly fortunate to have this place in the community.
MELINDA Will you be putting on any specials or events to celebrate the opening of the store, or on an ongoing basis?
MARK You have an amazing space in Takutai Square with the beanbags, and a significant part of our presence here is to explore all the possibilities of what we can do within and around the community. The city has so much going on that it might be challenging to keep up with every event, but we're truly committed to being an active part of the community.
Four Square Britomart will be open seven days a week, 7am to 8pm, with entrances on Galway Street and Customs Street East.
Photos by Geoffery Matautia.