During his university years, Chris Ramsay was always behind bars or desks creating cocktails and drinks for his friends.
But he never imagined he would become the big boss of hospitality in Invercargill. Southland Express reporter Luisa Girao talks with the Invercargill Licensing Trust chief executive to find out more about the life of this prominent Southlander.
MR Ramsay describes himself as a determined and sociable man.
When he was a high school pupil at Southland Boys’ High School, he enjoyed being outside and played as many sports as possible, including rugby and cricket.
“It’s fair to say I enjoyed my school time but particularly enjoyed lunch times.
“As much as my parents would probably hate me to say… I probably could have done better at school, but I really enjoyed the social elements of it like sports, getting out and about.”
When he graduated, Mr Ramsay moved to Dunedin to complete a degree in geography at the University of Otago.
“I probably took a different path through uni. Friends that I knew were very sure what
they wanted and what career path they would take.
“I chose to do things I enjoyed… so I studied geography and did a lot of philosophy papers as well.”
Attending university and living in another city were experiences which opened Mr Ramsay’s mind, he said.
“I started to think about things differently.”
While at university he shared a flat with four other Invercargill men.
“Ironically, we did not know each other before university.
“We are now long-time friends and we still catch up regularly.”
At 21 years old, Mr Ramsay got his first job in the hospitality industry.
I just love what the trust does for the city and the positive impact we can continue to have.
He was hired as a croupier at Dunedin Casino, which had recently opened in 1999.
There, he learned the hospitality industry was challenging.
He said being a croupier could be intimidating as he had to deal with “pretty big numbers” and players were always staring him down.
“It tests your brain… but it was also fun. I use to describe how I got to play games for a living. So it is not bad at all,” he said.
But Mr Ramsay never stopped studying or chasing challenges in his life.
While he was working at the casino, he was promoted from croupier to games manager.
The job also allowed him to complete courses in other areas, including finances, marketing and accounting.
After three-and-a-half years “on the floor”the position of marketing manager came up and he took the opportunity.
During his 10 years there, Mr Ramsay grew his career, made friends and met his future wife Praneeta.
She was also born and brought up in Invercargill, but they had never met before.
Her personality and intelligence attracted Mr Ramsay, he said.
“She is a very clever and amazing woman. It is incredible the support she gives me.”
The couple have been together for 17 years and married for about 10.
They have three children – sons Samuel, 9, and George, 6, and daughter Mae, 5.
It was because of their children, the couple decided to move back to Southland.
“We wanted to give the kids the upbringing that my wife and I had in Invercargill.”
After he left his job at Dunedin Casino and worked for four years as a marketing manager at Media Works, Mr Ramsay applied for the job of marketing head at ILT and got it.
In 2014, 18 years after he moved from Invercargill, he returned to his hometown where his daughter was born.
“I’m proud to say I have an Invercargill-born child.”
It was at the same time he learned he was not the first ILT employee in his family.
His grandfather Raymond had been a barman at the Avenal Tavern and his mother Marjorie had been a waitress at the Ascot Park Hotel.
The trust operated many businesses in the hospitality industry in Invercargill, including hotels, motels, restaurants, bars and retail liquor outlets.
It also operated a motel in Dunedin and another in Christchurch.
In 2018, he was appointed to replace Greg Mulvey as chief executive of the ILT.
Among his most proud achievements were the Langlands Hotel development, Deow’s mural on the Kelvin Hotel and his involvement in the Southland Charity Hospital.
In the past six months, the trust had donated the former Clifton Club Inn to be transformed into Southland’s new charity hospital.
“It is amazing to be part of something that will change lives.
“I just love what the trust does for the city and the positive impact we can continue to have. I’ve got no doubt I have the best job in the world.”