James Crisp New Zealand, broker, food agent, importer, wholesaler

Our heritage

The following is a brief outline of important dates in the history of James Crisp Ltd.

1884   -  James Crisp, founder of the company, was born Dunedin, NZ. He commenced his commercial career at age 15 years in the accounts department of Hallenstein Bros Ltd, Dunedin. After six years, with the desire to be involved in New Zealand’s rural industry, Crisp joined Wright Stephenson & Co Ltd, Stock and Station Agents, wool brokers at the Dunedin head office.

1913   - Crisp moved to Auckland taking up a position with LD Nathan Ltd, Wholesale Merchants in Fort Street. In Auckland he recognised the scope to progress his career based on the breadth of his trading experience during his Dunedin years.

1916 - Crisp embarked in trade on his own account as a broker within the Wholesale Merchants Federation of NZ. This direction took him further into the area of locally produced and imported food products.

His first agency appointment was ‘Karilac’, a dairy product developed in Otago by the Truby King Karitane Foundation for Childcare.

The business prospered. Geo Hamlett & Sons Ltd of Cheshire England, Salt manufacturers, appointed Crisp for the NZ market in 1917.

1922   - Rosenberg Bros, San Francisco, US Dried Fruits appointed Crisp as agents and in the same year John Cornell Black Friars of London, Commodities, ex the Near and Far East, India and Africa.

Other notable events in the company’s history are:

1935 - The NZ government imposed import controls. These restrictions and the economic slump of the 1930s had major impact on the business. At one stage the business was reduced to a back room office with one table and chair in Commerce Street. Total inventory was 50lb kegs of citric acid at a cost of 3/6 per pound (42 cents) and sold at 1/9 per pound (21 cents).

1936 - Mr Fred Marshall was employed ex William Aitken & Co Ltd, a competitor, as well as Mr GK. Germann as trading manager. A very successful combination.

1939 - War broke out. Mr Fred Marshall was seconded to Government Food Control offices in Wellington. Mr Marshall became a Deputy Food Controller 1940 to 1945 to administer allocation of imported food products throughout wholesale and other distribution channels as high security unannounced shipments were discharged from convoy merchant ships.

1942 - Trade was dormant due to the war. James Crisp, without family, lived part time on a farm in Cambridge.

1946 - Mr Marshall returned from Wellington and business was quickly running back to normal. Import licensing continued up to 1949.

1950 - National Party elected into government and import controls were abolished leading to an upsurge in imported foods. James Crisp did very well in these years.

1957 -  K Germann and his son Des retired from James Crisp (‘James Crisp’ being the profit sharing partnership name).

1957 - Fred Marshall prevailed upon Crisp to break the rule not to have relatives join the business. John Hall, a broker in Auckland, joined as an equal partner. All terms subject to termination three yearly.

1957 - Mr Ken Dickey joined James Crisp as a Customs and Shipping Clerk having had experience at Smith & Caughey Ltd. John Hall encouraged Mr Dickey to shift into a sales career which saw Mr Dickey become a highly respected Indent Trader in the NZ food industry, as was Mr Marshall in his day.

1958 -  Import licensing re-imposed, a nightmare restructuring initiative that disrupted free trade. However, the company successfully managed to maintain continuity of business. Newer competitors couldn’t get started because they had no previous base year on which license were allocated.

John Hall was among the foremost opponents of government disruption and a president of the NZ Bureau of Importers 1964 to 1966; the foremost trade group in pursuit of abolition of the import controls which was finally achieved in the late 1970s.

1968 - Crisp died in July. Later that year the firm James Crisp became a limited liability company and John Hall the major shareholder. The company grew at a steady rate.

1987 & 1992 – Two of John Hall’s sons join the company. In 1987 Richard joins with a background in the stock and station industry and sporting goods wholesale, while Henry joins in 1992 after a career with Westpac Merchant Finance, and in sales with Pepsi Cola during the time of the company’s re-launch.

*Historic image from Special Collections, Auckland City libraries


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