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Family business rose from the ashes with Crombie Lockwood’s timely support

When a fire caused by self-igniting rags destroyed an Auckland restaurant, Crombie Lockwood’s SMARTpak insurance and local support helped get the business running again.

16 February, 2022
Partners, Article, Insurance, Auckland, New Zealand
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When a fire caused by self-igniting rags destroyed an Auckland restaurant, Crombie Lockwood’s SMARTpak insurance and local support helped get the business running again.

Sarah Newson and Kostas Grigorakis’ success with their Greek and Italian restaurant, El Greco, came to a devastating halt in June 2020 when a fire left it blackened and burnt. It was a challenge for the couple to get their business back on track but the eatery’s loyal customers returned in droves – and its business insurance cover meant all was not lost.

Cleaning rags that had been commercially cleaned were to blame for the fire. The washed and dried rags were put into a plastic bag and dropped off at the restaurant, as was always done.

“On this particular occasion, the static caused smouldering, which snaked its way through and burnt a hole in the plastic bag. Then it just exploded,” says Sarah. “It took out the whole kitchen. The rest of the place was heavily smoke damaged..”

Also known as spontaneous combustion, self-igniting fires are often caused by oily or greasy fabrics that become flammable with heat and static. Unfortunately, it’s not a rare occurrence.


Fire caused substantial damage to the restaurant's kitchen and dining area.

Support when it counted

On the night of the fire, Crombie Lockwood insurance broker, Richard, was immediately on the phone getting the claim sorted, sending over a security guard to secure the property. Myles Noble, Head of Insurer Relationships & Broker Claims, also stepped in to help the couple through the claim and avoid delays, alongside Loss Adjuster Margaret Wallace from Crawford & Company.

“In an exceptionally emotional time when you lose your livelihood like that and you don't really know which direction you're supposed to be pointing in, Crombie Lockwood were sympathetic and gave us time,” says Sarah.

An influx of support also followed from the local community. “[Customers] were coming down to us and saying ‘I’ll come down on the weekend with some gumboots and gloves, and I'll help you strip this out’.”

To maintain a presence in the community and mitigate their losses, they opened the El Greco Box food trailer which proved very popular, ahead of the restaurant’s grand reopening.

Sarah Newson at El Greco before the reopening

Good insurance advice in trying times

Despite being able to get back on track, it proved to Sarah and Kostas just how critical their SMARTpak insurance cover was, alongside good, personalised advice.

“Spend time on your insurance annually,” advises Sarah. “See what you’re covered for; is there anything that you don't need, or is there something else you might? Talk it over with your broker. The assumption is that you're never going to use insurance. But when you need it, you seriously need it. If we hadn't been covered by business interruption, we'd have been done.

“If we could stop one person from going through what we have been through, then our life would be fulfilled.” 

Published in Crombie Lockwood Sure - Autumn 2021

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The views expressed in this content are those of the author, who is also responsible for any errors and omissions. Family Business Association provides this article for your information only. The content of the article should not be taken as advice. If you wish to explore this topic, please consult an advisor who you consider to have the expertise to provide specific advice in relation to your family business.