New face at workshop helm but same ethos, tractor and forklift

It’s business as usual at Raglan Engineering but still something of “a steep learning curve” for the new owner of the iconic tackle-anything workshop that’s operated for decades out of the old Hartstone building on Park Drive.

“I wish to continue as is,” Vaughan Anderson assured 60-odd loyal customers and suppliers who gathered on site last Saturday to both welcome him and farewell Peter Williams, who’s now retired after 48 years working in the depth of that very building – 23 of them as owner of the business.

Vaughan insisted at the handover that “if it can be fixed, repaired, modified or created” then Raglan Engineering under his ownership will continue to do so in the time-honoured tradition of its outgoing owner, who liked nothing better than devising solutions to myriad challenges.

While Vaughan’s a trained sheet-metal tradesman – with a particular expertise in the construction of dairy factories – Peter’s background was as a mechanic.

Vaughan however is on that learning curve and says he’s ready for what he calls community engineering. “Problems solved, service delivered as always,” he promises.

As Peter wanted, Vaughan’s kept on the two existing staff. He’s also inherited the business’s tractor and forklift – assets Peter reckons are (or were) “every boy’s dream”.

Vaughan – who’s 52 – says he feels right at home in Raglan, having learnt his trade down-country in Hawera near the black sand coast of the South Taranaki Bight. He’s been based in Hamilton since, has family in town here and has visited Raglan often over the years.  

Now living just an eight-minute walk away from his new workshop, with a harbour view from the smoko room upstairs and a brewery right next door, Vaughan’s amped. “What more could a man need?” he jokes.

Peter, meantime, is delighted at the sale of the business he’s built up since the year 2000. It was very important his “second home” went to the right person, he told the Chronicle – someone with the same ethos and with the same kind of interest in the community. 

The 68 year old’s had some health scares in recent years which have hastened his retirement plans. Ongoing cancer treatment has been put on hold long enough, says Peter, and come Christmas-time he might well have considered closing his beloved workshop if the “willing buyer” he wanted hadn’t turned up.

Peter was particularly pleased to welcome his old boss John Hartstone back on site for the weekend barbecue event. At 20 years old this longtime local started out as a mechanic for John, only taking a leap of faith and setting up his own engineering business 25 years later.

During that time he calculates he’s worn out something like 18 pairs of work boots, gone through four or five lunchboxes and cut his lunch 11,000 times.

“I’m a systems man,” he laughs. “I think I bought my lunch only once!”

By Edith Symes

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