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Duncan family pours final pint at Founders

John Duncan is selling the brewery he built at Founders Heritage Park twenty years ago. Photo: Charles Anderson.

It was a bittersweet moment when Founders Brewery owner John Duncan closed his doors on Friday.

The Founders Park brewery is a Nelson institution but its final beer has been poured. “It was with mixed emotions,” says John.

The cafe has been a focal point for the Duncan family for the past twenty years.

“If you ever wanted to see us you would have to come to the cafe because we were pretty much here seven days a week, it’s an end of an era.”

The team had a surprise farewell party last week which John says was quite humbling.

“I have loved meeting so many different people over the years.”

He says he's had a base of loyal customers, some of whom have been there since day one.

“I had people coming up to me giving me hugs and telling me how sorry they were to see us go.”

John had employed all five of his children at the cafe over the years.

“They have all worked here at some stage, some for 15 years.”

A number of family milestones have also been celebrated at the cafe, which was re-branded to Park Life late last year after Boundary Road Brewery took over the brand Founders.

“We had my twin’s 21st, my wife’s 60th, my 65th birthday here.”

However, he now says it’s time to put his feet up.

“I’ve reached retirement age and my wife Carol is unwell, so I need to look after her.”

He says he will also spend some time doing up the family bach in Lake Rotoiti which “needs some TLC.”

John is selling the building, the brewery and cafe along with everything in it, but not the business itself, and he will keep a few recipes up his sleeve.

“A lot of them are in my head and will stay in the family.”

The brewery has twice won the best small brewery in the world, along with a slew of other titles.

They exported beer to Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Denmark, Germany.

“It’s been quite a journey.”

John says he is still going through negotiations with potential buyers.

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