16 Feb 2018

Staff, suppliers not being paid at Nosh successor

From Checkpoint, 5:42 pm on 16 February 2018

Former employees and suppliers at the grocer that replaced Nosh in Auckland say they've lost all faith they'll ever be paid.

Despite having no grocery or retail experience, disgraced real estate agent Aaron Drever - who was stripped of his licence in 2016 after racking up nine disciplinary findings - last year bought the remnants of the Mt Eden Nosh supermarket after it went into receivership, and rebranded it The Grocer's Market.

Since opening in November last year, Mr Drever has racked up debts allegedly worth more than $100,000 to former staff and suppliers.

Checkpoint has spoken to 10 suppliers in the past fortnight who are owed money, the smallest bill being less than $700 and the largest more than $30,000. Exact amounts have been withheld at the request of suppliers.

"I have absolutely no faith in Aaron Drever. I think he's extremely dishonest and I have no confidence in getting paid," Logotech owner Grant White said.

Logotech supplied staff uniforms to The Grocer's Market and is owed $3416.

Mr White has filed a disputes tribunal claim against The Grocer's Market, making Logotech the second company to resort to the courts for payment in the three months The Grocer's Market has been open.

Vision Fresh, a Tauranga produce company, filed a High Court claim in December last year over a bill of more than $25,000.

Paloma Cheadle was The Grocer's Market's marketing manager for three weeks at its inception and is owed $3083.

"Quite early on I did get a gut feeling [Mr Drever] wasn't going to pay me," she said.

"The reason for that was I just looked around and started observing the way other people were being treated - other suppliers and employees."

Checkpoint visited the Grocer's Market yesterday but was asked to leave and subsequently trespassed by Aaron Drever.

He later issued a statement confirming suppliers are owed money, and reiterating an earlier promise to sell his house to pay suppliers and staff if need be.

He did not say when he would deem that to be necessary, despite some bills now being three months old.

"The Grocer's Market is a business with over 380 suppliers. It employs 30 staff and has a forecasted turnover of circa $8 million per annum. All contracted staff members have been paid," Mr Drever said in the statement.

"We have many options available to us including obtaining a more experienced operator and selling, instigating a bank line of credit, inviting third party investors, and a possible restructure... We are confident in that one of those options will be finalised in the next week or two."

Mr Drever said Checkpoint "painted a picture that is misleading, overly alarmist".

Asked if she has any faith she will ever be paid, Ms Cheadle said: "No. I don't expect to."

"I know of quite a few people who are owed a lot more money than myself," she said.

"People who literally didn't go home to their families they worked so hard. And they're just not getting paid, and I just don't get that."

Checkpoint interviewed another supplier from the South Island who is owed more than $4000, but after being contacted by Mr Drever, the supplier asked for their interview not to be published.

A hearing will likely be held in May to settle Vision Fresh's claim. If Vision Fresh is successful, The Grocer's Market could be put into liquidation.