Michelle Menzies had to do a presentation for her father to convince him she had something to offer the family footwear business. Five years on and Michelle is running Pat Menzies Shoes and doing her best to maintain her father’s legacy in what are challenging times for the retail industry.
As a teenager Michelle Menzies could think of nothing worse than working at Pat Menzies, the iconic Auckland shoe shop founded by her father in 1975. Instead travelling and working in the advertising industry took up most of her twenties.
It wasn’t until she’d settled down in Auckland and started a family that her thoughts turned to working with her father.
“I guess you could say I developed an emotional connection to the business,” says Menzies. “I saw what was happening with e-commerce and social media and I knew Dad’s business needed support in that space. He didn't know much about that side of things but he wasn't sure if he wanted me to get involved. He was dead against the idea in fact.”
Not given lightly
Thankfully Michelle’s presentation did the trick and she was hired her to look after marketing and online strategy.
“Dad was impressed that I’d gone to so much effort,” says Menzies. “I wanted him to take me seriously, but he’s from a generation where praise was never given lightly.
“It wasn't until I got involved in the business and he could see I was making a difference that he conceded I knew what I was doing.”
Menzies launched an ecommerce site and also placed a big emphasis on social media and working with brand influencers including LeeAnn Yare of Collected, Aimee Fleur of My Beloved Style, and music duo Sweet Mix Kids.
Supporting New Zealand artists and creatives dovetails nicely with Michelle’s own ‘shop local’ ethos and Pat Menzies reputation as an edgy, underground brand. It was the first New Zealand stockist of Dr Marten boots and has a long association with the universities and student radio.
“Dad’s personality has filtered through the culture,” says Menzies. “He was great at spotting trends before they happened and he was a great buyer.
“I meet so many of our customers who’ve shopped with us since they were in uni and now they’re bringing their kids into the store with them.”
Michelle’s father stepped away from the business in 2016, but it wasn't an easy transition.
“It’s not easy to walk away from your business after you’ve put so much of yourself into it,” says Menzies.
“He built this iconic brand over 40 years, but retail has changed dramatically in that time. Retail has been tough going in recent years and when the playing field changed he took a lot of things personally. He wasn't enjoying working in the business and eventually he decided it was time to let the new generation take over and focus on fishing.
“He’s still very much involved on a strategic level and he backs me 100 per cent which is nice.”
Pat Menzies is one of the last owner operated businesses on Queen Street (they also have a shop in St Kevin’s Arcade on K Road) and Michelle is a strong advocate for local businesses.
“If people don’t support local businesses we’re going to lose iconic shops that have been part of Auckland for generations. We’re going to lose the heart of the city and a big part of its character and charm, and that would be a shame.”
As for the pros and cons of working in a family business, Menzies has this advice.
“You should only get involved if you’re passionate about it. I love the history of Pat Menzies, I love our staff and I love the brands we work with.
“But it’s like anything, you have to want to do it. You can’t wake up every morning and hate what you do. You have to have that passion.”