As the owners of Good Merchant blow out its first birthday candle, the two sets of two brothers never could've predicted the year that would follow their grand opening on 19 September last year.

With Matamata perfectly placed for road tripping Kiwis, and Hobbiton Movie Set drawing thousands to the area each week, co-owner Kim said they thought there was an opportunity for another venue. "At that stage it was a huge tourist hub and we wanted to give people more choice," he said.

One set of brothers owns the building as well. "They've always been keen to do something like this, so when the building became available, we went for it," said Kim. And they were flying high, until COVID became a real threat, international borders closed, the nation went into lockdown and the alert levels seriously affected the hospitality industry.

Kim said they definitely noticed the impact. "Suddenly the tourists were gone and we've had to rely on locals. We're trying to do as much as we can to provide a good service at each alert level and keep everyone in good spirits," he said. And it seems to be doing the trick.

Good Merchant hosts a popular weekly quiz night, family night and will be playing all the upcoming All Blacks games live on the big screen in their courtyard. Kim is glad to see Matamata back at alert level one. "It's very hard for hospo at level two," he said. "It's difficult to organise entertainment and bands, comedians and all that sort of stuff we want to do for the locals." Now that they're back in alert level one he's hoping for a smooth run like last time, when business started to boom again and they were heading in the right direction.

The impressive line up they have for the next few weeks show they have worked hard to deliver within the limits, and when they organised for comedian Ben Hurley to do a show, tickets were snapped up. "It sold out really quickly and he put on a great show, so we're bringing him back on 8 October," said Kim.

They're also bringing Paintvine, 'New Zealand's favourite paint and wine night' to Matamata on 22 October and depending on its popularity, will make it a regular event. It's where guests take on the basic techniques of painting with acrylics on canvas, with the help of an expert Paintvine artist, who leads each session with step-by-step instructions. The event has taken off in bars around the country.

"We've got another couple for things we're looking at doing now that we're in level one again," said Kim.  "We're already getting bookings for Christmas work do's in our function room, so if you're looking at booking a party, it's best to get in early to get the date you want."

It may have been a rocky start but the owners of Good Merchant have their feet firmly planted on the ground and their sights set high. "Watch this space," said Kim. "We have big plans for you Matamata".