A Family Business From the Ground Up

Building things that last has long been in the Thorpe DNA, though the road that brought Gisborne’s iconic grower to First Fresh started out in a less than rural setting.

Surprisingly Bill Thorpe, founder and Director of First Fresh, started his career waist deep in pantyhose working in the family business, Columbine Hosiery that has long been a household name.

Fortuitously in the early 70’s Bills father retired from textiles and embarked on a large horticulture development involving three Kiwifruit orchards, a Persimmon orchard and what remains today as Gisborne's largest Navel Orange orchard.

The family also developed Gisborne's first kiwifruit packhouse, packing and exporting their first kiwifruit in 1975.

In 1980 Bill decided to set up his own business establishing Thorpe Horticulture aimed at providing development services for large new plantings of kiwifruit, Persimmons, Satsumas and Nashi. Using experience gained from the family packhouse operation, Bill also supervised the construction of four new packhouses including NZ Fruits, now Gisborne's largest, in which he later became a shareholder.

During the late 80’s the logic of expanding the growing and packing activity into the marketing of Gisborne fruit and produce became obvious and Bill thus established First Fresh in 1989 ensuring the full "tree to trolley" concept was available.

Today, First Fresh works with approximately 150 local horticulturalists. Bill’s trailblazing loyalty to the region has been rewarded by his fellow growers – many of whom are second generation First Fresh clients.

Working with a diverse mix of Ma and Pa growers, lifestyle blockers and large corporate orchards, First Fresh has established a reputation for delivering outstanding support and technical advice, savvy marketing and an uncanny understanding of the wholesale marketing process.

Bill is still an active grower and, from tree to trolley, his decades of knowledge are always on hand. But Bill would be the first to tell you that First Fresh is bigger than one man.

Bill views First Fresh as a family company. That family is one he has built over many years and comprises of long serving staff, growers and customers. The value of a business lies in its people and at First Fresh the grower and client relationship is paramount - both are seen as stakeholders jointly shaping the future of this ground-breaking Gisborne business.