Norman Choy (1917-2008)

Norman Joseph Choy1 also known as Gock Yet Wai郭日維, born 9 September 1917 arrived in New Zealand in January 1930 from Jook Sou Yuen 竹秀園, Zhongshan, China on a student visa.

It was expected that Norman would help his father as much as possible during his schooling at Marist Convent and Sacred Heart College. Jack Choy born in 1886 in Jook Sou Yuen, Zhongshan tried several ventures and eventually found success as a wholesaler of fruit and vegetables in Newmarket.

Norman, who had acquired a ‘little bit of English’ was able to help his father during the school holidays and other various times. He obviously worked hard and gained a good reputation as about 1941 he was encouraged to buy the Khyber Pass Road property by the owner, Joseph MacDonald. ‘He said to me, ‘Norman you’d better buy it, if you don’t buy it, you will have nowhere to put your veges.’ Norman replied, ‘I’ve got no money, I’ve no business dealings, I’ve got no idea at all!’ MacDonald said, ‘I trust you, you pay me so much, I’ll come along every week.’ ‘So I bought it off him. He charged me six per cent interest, so I gradually paid it off.’

From there Norman’s entrepreneurial endeavours included the Market Tearooms in Custom’s Street West, ‘a little run down fruit shop’ on the corner of Liverpool Street and Karangahape Road and a fruit shop at 255 Broadway, Newmarket.

Norman Choy – From fruiterer to entrepreneur

Although not an ambitious business man, Norman seemed to possess the business acumen necessary to get ahead. His attributes were good planning, common sense, hard work and confidence: ‘I got no fear in me. I never think about failure. I just go ahead. I do it step by step’ says Norman.

From there Norman moved into building and property investment beginning with redevelopment of the Khyber Pass Road property to a modern building with Choy Blds inscribed on the concrete façade. At a cost of £10,000, it was one of the first large buildings built and owned by a Zhongshan person in New Zealand.

norman choy building 1957The next project in France Street, Newton started as a big hole in the ground. The building was to contain eight squash courts and to stand five storeys high. It was an achievement that Norman could be proud of. Still operating today, it was the first commercial squash courts in Auckland.

In the 1960s Penrose was one of Auckland’s rapidly expanding industrial areas and Norman took the opportunity to lease one and a quarter acres at 16-20 Industry Road. He says,‘I got eight tenants there. I got six factories and eight buildings altogether.’

In 2007 he said he was still collecting rent from those buildings. Norman, at 91 years of age talked with obvious enjoyment about his investments: ‘Well, I don’t know what gave me the idea of building or expanding but I had a taste of the first one in Newmarket and so I expanded. I come back from Hong Kong after seeing my cousins do well and I come back and do it slowly.’

Norman Choy will be remembered by the Zhongshan community as a business icon and a worthy son who fulfilled his father’s dreams. Daughter Janice says, ‘He was a humble man who persevered in life and in his businesses. He was a self-made man and very proud of his achievements.’

We invite you to read the full article by Lily Lee.

Norman Choy Family story in full

  1. Interview with Norman Choy conducted by Lily Lee, Royal Oak, 10 December 2007. This story also includes interviews with Norman Choy conducted by Eva Wong-Ng, Royal Oak, 1 May 1994 and 11 July 1998.