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Our History

Arthur Holmes Ltd is a family business that’s been part of the Wellington landscape since 1910.
The Holmes family is now well into its third generation of ownership, running the company ever since Arthur began importing glass milk bottles and Kenyan road lamps (many of older clients may remember these, as they featured our company name).
Arthur actually started the business in partnership with his brother, but became sole proprietor after a family disagreement. He was later helped by his wife Vera, who was one of the first women in New Zealand to gain University Entrance. A superb administrator, Vera was still working for the company in her 80s and was known for her amazing ability to add up figures – much faster than any calculator!

The family boat

As well as being an entrepreneur, Arthur was an accomplished amateur boat-builder. He built a small yacht when he was only 18 years old, and both he and his son Jock became the only father and son honorary life members of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club in Wellington.
Vagabond in the Marlborough Sounds
In 1926, Arthur commissioned the building of a 40-foot kauri motor sailer, the Vagabond – a treasured possession that’s still proudly in Holmes family ownership. It’s destined to be around for a long while yet, as Jock’s son Rick has faithfully restored it to its original condition .Last last restoration was completed in early 2011,when she was for the first time stored inside a purpose built large boatshed in Waikawa Marina.It is now looking the best it has ever been,with many new additions & refinements & modernised components.
A third generation
When Arthur’s health began to suffer in his late 70s (just after World War II), Jock took over the business, helped by his wife Audrey. With a staff of around 10, the company was in its heyday, selling drinking glasses and sundry associated items to most pubs and clubs around the country, along with the other glass pharmaceutical containers.
Sadly, in 1979 Jock suffered a serious stroke, and Rick was asked to take control of the company – a change of direction for the new Managing Director, as Rick was planning to become a farmer!
Inspired by farmers he’d visited while holidaying on the Vagabond in the Marlborough Sounds, Rick had completed his BAgSc at Massey University and become a Farm Adviser for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. After being stationed for five years in Wanganui, he’d taken an 18-month OE and spent a year as a tutor for Waikato Technical Institute.
However, family is family, so Rick tackled his new role with zest – a quality that was much needed, because he took over at a stage when the business was being seriously challenged.
By this time, the company was mainly selling glass bottles to pharmaceutical manufacturers and chemists. However, the manufacturers had begun closing down and chemists had started using plastic containers.
A new direction was called for, firstly into plastics (which now accounts for an important slice of the company’s turnover) then into a new range of imported glass jars, bottles and closures in different shapes, sizes and colours. This move helped in the development of New Zealand’s cottage industry, a diverse range of businesses that today are a vital ingredient in the company’s growing business. In addition, the increasing popularity of lifestyle blocks brought increased sales that continue today, especially through the popular weekend markets and the swing to organics.

Moves across town

When it was first established, Arthur Holmes Ltd was located in the middle of Wellington city, on the first floor of Howdens Building next to the Town Hall. The space was far from ideal – stock had to fit into a small, old-fashioned lift and the office layout was like a rabbits’ warren. Rick hated even visiting the premises when he was young; maybe this was the reason he’d never contemplated working for the business!
Howdens Building the morning after the fire. First floor offices of Arthur Holmes Ltd 1977

Then fate intervened, and a fire destroyed the premises in 1977. The company then moved to ground floor premises in Newtown’s Adelaide Road, but these soon proved too small – so in 1983 it moved to its current 1300-square-metre building at the south end of Newtown. The new building offers an ideal mix of a high-stud warehouse, mezzanine, offices and a large dockway, together with easy parking outside. From being the tenant, the company is now the building owner, fully occupying all the space.

In early 2009 we purchased another business Techpack Supplies Ltd, which we have amalgamated into our business.The stocks are still held in the Auckland warehouse of Marlin Transport with the operation controlled now from our Wellington office. We also have surplus bulk warehousing in Christchurch as our Newtown warehouse operates at full capacity.

The business has seen a marked increase in sales since 2009.

Well established, and looking to the future

Arthur Holmes Ltd now has nine full-time staff who’ve been with the company for a very long time, and who are extremely knowledgeable and competent in all aspects of the business. They have to be, as Rick’s often away on family holidays in the Sounds or overseas on road biking tours or working on his interesting forest of natives and exotic trees at Tinui (near Masterton).
Rick and his wife Jo have three children who so far have shown no interest in joining the company in the future. However, there are plenty of years ahead with Rick still at the helm, as he can’t see himself retiring for a long time yet!

Previous premises in Newtown, Wellington

Our Managament Team

Rick Holmes
Managing Director
Joined his father in 1979