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Iconic Trader Jack’s up for sale

Saturday 2 July 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Business, National

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Iconic Trader Jack’s up for sale
Trader Jacks. Photo: Cook Islands News

Iconic Rarotonga eatery and watering hole Trader Jacks is on the market.

Trader Jacks director Chris Douglas is calling it a day after more than 35 years in the Rarotonga business.

His business partner of decades, Jack Cooper, passed away on June 1.

The pair worked closely together in building the Trader Jacks brand from 1986.

Douglas, 66, said they had been looking for interested parties for some time.

The operation, including Traders, Bamboo Jacks and Blue Pacific Food is for sale.

“It’s time to sell, move on,” Douglas said.

“Let some new people come in with new ears and eyes.”

Douglas said there had been some local interest, and enquiries from New Zealand.

“There wouldn’t be many restaurants in New Zealand that lasted this long.”

Douglas said he is hopeful for retirement and that he will stay on Rarotonga.

Trader Jacks director Chris Douglas is “hoping” to retire after more than 35 years in the Rarotonga business. Photo: Al Williams/22062801

“I have spent half my life here, I would rather live in a small house on the beach than a big house in the city.”

He said Traders is doing better numbers as visitor figures pick up following the border reopening.

“We have managed to stay open and retain our staff.”

The operation employs about 40 people.

“There have been a lot of friendships over the years, a lot of return visitors.

“This could be a great opportunity for someone with a hospitality background.”

Trader Jacks opened in 1986.  

In January 1987 Cyclone Sally visited, bringing winds of up to 190kph and waves up to 12-metres high, 80 per cent of the buildings in Avarua were either destroyed or badly damaged.

Trader Jacks sitting directly in the path of the storm was one of them.

The business was insured but it took the insurance company 15 months to pay out.  

While the Trader Jacks location right on the Avarua harbour is stunning, Sally demonstrated its vulnerability and it became uninsurable.

That issue would manifest itself 18 years later when Cyclone Meena, followed by three further cyclones in four weeks, struck Rarotonga and the restaurant again.

Meena was devastating and cost a million dollars to recover from.

Once again tenacity, planning and perseverance took over, and Trader Jacks rose out of the debris again.

Many live local and international bands have played at Traders such as New Zealand singer-songwriters Tim and Neil Finn with Dave Dobbyn, and Ardijah.

Trader Jacks has also attracted many interesting patrons over the years, including former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who visited the Cook Islands for the Pacific Islands Forum in 2012, former deputy prime minister of New Zealand Winston Peters, former and current All Blacks and nearly every visitor who has landed on the shores of the Cook Islands.