24 Nov 2023

Ollies: beloved Auckland ice cream shop handed to the next generation

From Afternoons, 1:09 pm on 24 November 2023

After 50 years, the founder of the iconic Auckland fast food shop Ollies has hung up his ice cream scoop.

Colin Haines (a Salted Caramel man) chats to Jesse Mulligan about the American-style diner he and his wife Carolyn opened back in 1973.

Colin Haines, cofounder and former owner of the Auckland diner Ollies

Colin Haines, cofounder and former owner of the Auckland diner Ollies Photo: Lawrence Smith / Stuff

Colin and Carolyn Haines had recently returned to Aotearoa after living in Canada for five years when they bought a vacant burger joint on the Red Oak roundabout.

The Haines first intended Ollies to be a dessert shop for patrons of the nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken: "They worked side by side for a long time."

The couple didn't imagine that their small suburban diner – named after a place they liked in Vancouver – would quickly become a destination in itself.

"We were interested in doing the shop, getting it going, seeing if we could get a half-decent turnover and then selling it and make some money. But honestly, when we opened the store, it was just so busy right away that we just stayed and stayed … Then we built [a house] in the same area and our children all went to school and university, etc. So it really worked out very, very well."

Everybody loves a burger or ice cream cone, though, Colin says, even when there are "bad things happening".

"It's not like a restaurant, it's food at a different price level ... we've always remained very stable all the time. In fact, it would get busy when times were bad." 

Earlier this month he and Carolyn handed Ollies over to their son Matthew and his wife Lee who first met when they worked there together as teenagers.

The new owners are just two of hundreds of Ollies employees who've served burgers and ice cream over the years, Colin says, to patrons that have included NZ Warriors, Auckland mayors and Hollywood actors.

Although he and Carolyn now happily live in Whangamata, he does miss the "social part" of working behind the counter at Ollies.

"I just got to know thousands of people. Sadly, I don't know names and phone numbers but gosh, what a lot of people we've got to know.

"To sit with an ice cream and look out there at the traffic going round the roundabout is really so interesting. And of course, the odd little accident that happens at the roundabout."