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11 November 2022

Spreading the spirit of love

Saturday 11 February 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Features, In Depth, National


Spreading the spirit of love
Island Craft directors Fletcher and Vaea Melvin have been together for more than 30 years. JOANNE HOLDEN/23021108

Valentine’s Day ‘organised chaos’ for gift retailers with 30-year romance. As gift retailer Island Craft gears up for its second-busiest holiday of the year, Valentine’s Day, business directors Fletcher and Vaea Melvin sit down with journalist Joanne Holden to share their love story and the secret to a lasting relationship.

Their first meeting was on a dance floor in Rarotonga, their second was when Fletcher knocked on Vaea’s door in Tahiti. 

The couple first crossed paths in 1992 when the Pacific Arts Festival came to Rarotonga – an 18-year-old Vaea dazzling Fletcher, 20, while performing with the Tahitian dance team at Club Raro Resort. 

“We had a dance and I decided that I like that dance, and I want to continue that dance for the rest of my life,” says Fletcher. 

“About a month later, with my cousin, I packed up and went to Tahiti. I was determined to track Vaea down. 

“I had nothing. I sold everything – my prized possession, my motorbike, as well as my TV. 

“My dad, who was a bit of a romantic himself, gave me a chunk of money – about $1000, I think it was. He said, ‘Go ahead, I chased your mother,’ because he was from Scotland and my mum was from Cook Islands, and they met in New Zealand.” 

Fletcher turned up on Vaea’s doorstep, moved in with her family, and together they lived in Tahiti for two years. 

Vaea was “shocked” by Fletcher’s drive to meet her again, but also flattered. “It was a big proof of love,” she says. 

Married in 1996, Fletcher says their feelings for each other have remained the same for the past 30 years. 

“We’re conscious that we have to work at it. You can’t be lazy in love,” he says. 

“We’ll say, ‘Hey, we need to go spend some time together. How can we include our family? What makes us unhappy, what makes us happy?’ We’re pretty honest about that, and really supportive of each other. 

“Whatever we want to do, we’ll have an honest conversation about how that’s going to affect us and help us, before we make that decision. And we do it all the time.”

Vaea adds: “We do understand each other. It’s very rare that we clash.” 

Island Craft directors Fletcher and Vaea Melvin have been together for more than 30 years.  JOANNE HOLDEN/23021108
Island Craft directors Fletcher and Vaea Melvin have been together for more than 30 years. JOANNE HOLDEN/23021108

Open communication is especially important when running a business together, she says. 

The couple returned to Rarotonga in 1994 to work for Fletcher’s family business, Island Craft, before an opportunity to purchase the company outright arose soon after the birth of their first born son in 2000. 

Valentine’s Day is the company’s second-busiest holiday of the year, only pipped as the busiest by Mother’s Day in May. 

Fletcher says: “Valentine’s starts a month out for us. We are marketing and trying to get sales up, then the day itself is kind of crazy, but it’s organised chaos.” 

The company, which is in its 80th year, makes sure to shake up the formula each year – taking feedback from previous years on board; rolling out a fresh advertising campaign; and arranging new gift baskets with flowers, confectionery, crafts, and other gifts. 

Fletcher says Valentine’s Day is a “godsend for retailers around the world” because February is typically a slow month for business, as the buzz from Christmas dies down. 

Vaea says roses, chocolate, and teddy bears are the hot-ticket items for Valentine’s Day with orders also coming in from Australia, New Zealand, the outer islands, and sometimes even the United States. 

Vaea’s advice for a lasting relationship? “Spoil each other.” 

“Sometimes, when you spoil each other, you kind of feel guilty because you have kids and other things. But it’s something you should not feel. Making sure that you are happy is making sure that they are happy.” 

Fletcher says he and Vaea watch out for each other, pushing each other to stay healthy. 

“It comes with a lot of stress, our lifestyle – but I think having somebody that’s helping you with your mental and physical health is a big part of keeping you both happy.” 

Vaea says she and Fletcher “love our job”. 

“Every day I wake up and say, ‘It’s going to be a good day,’ and I make sure everyone is happy,” she says. 

“We have 30 people we are responsible for – so we want to make sure they can stay in the job, they can look after their families, and they are happy and successful.” 

The couple have three boys: Logan, 22, Manurere, 17, and Tangata, 9.

Their eldest son is an Island Craft employee and put together this year’s Valentine’s Day television advertisement, while their second-born child works for the company part-time during school holidays. 

“If they continue to work for the company and take over at some stage, that will make it a fourth generation family business,” Fletcher says. 

“My grandparents established the company. My parents and my sister ran the company as well, then us, and hopefully one day one of our boys will take over.”