Party for customer of over 50 years

02-02-2015 An Isle of Wight fruit and vegetable wholesaler who’s been travelling with Red Funnel for 50 years has had a party thrown in his honour.

Derek Hunt, who’s 75 and from Rookley, has been loyally travelling with Red Funnel across the Solent for half a century for family firm DJ Hunt, the Island’s largest and longest running fruit and vegetable wholesaler.

Derek established the firm in 1964, making deliveries in an Austin Van to the many Greengrocers and local shops across the Island. Back then the Red Funnel fleet comprised of the Carisbrooke Castle and the Osborne Castle and later the Cowes Castle, Norris Castle and Netley Castle. In the 70s and 80s he and is wife started growing their own produce and began trading in Newport Market. Before long they had opened a chain of bustling fruit and vegetable shops in Shanklin, Lake and Godshill. Times however were changing and in the late 80s the arrival of the supermarkets changed the face of the high street but Derek focussed instead on supplying pubs, restaurants, hotels and caterers - the mainstay of his business to this day.

The ferry firm celebrated the milestone by inviting along Derek's family, friends and staff members to a party held onboard Red Falcon during a round trip from East Cowes.

Derek, who still travels across the Solent regularly, said: “A lot has changed since I first made my journey to the mainland. I loved the old ferries that I used to travel on, but the new ones are just super. When I started travelling with Red Funnel I had to fight for a space on the 7.30 ferry on a Monday morning, as that’s when the first one left. Now it’s fantastic that there are so many early morning sailings to accommodate everyone".

“Red Funnel has always been very good to me, and I’ve never had any disagreements with the company. I’m very impressed, and it means a lot to me that they’ve gone to so much effort for my party. I have no plans to retire, and I’d like to keep travelling with Red Funnel for another 50 years if I could!”.

Lee Hudson, Red Funnel director with responsibility for sales, said: “We believe in building long-term relationships with our customers and forming real bonds with people we see regularly. We were only too delighted to put together a party for Derek, and I’m so glad he’s enjoyed his time travelling with Red Funnel so far. I hope we continue to see him on our ferries for a long time to come.”