Zenders cafe and venue is a relatively new venture, a young business that opened it's doors in December 2018 and that has many aspirations for the future.  

Yet, albeit young, it's story is rich.

Zenders was inspired by a family's story, growing through generations from the last 100 years. A story of experiences, of travel, of family and opportunity. 

And now, this story continues. A new generation, bringing together more people for more experiences and more occasions, living to it's core purpose of 'making every visit an experience'.


the early 1900s

All that is left of the original family home is the council blueprint and the letters what were displayed across the front of the building, which were recovered and now sit at the front of our building.

A second house was built using the same blueprint by one of the original owners’ sons. It is still in the family today.

The original building was built in 1911 by the Reymer family, in Zevenaar, the Netherlands.  It stayed in the family until the early 2000s.

Traditional farmhouses (or boerderij) in the Netherlands housed both the family and the animals. Winter temperatures were extremely cold and as a result, animals wintered indoors. 

Many stories are told of families sleeping in the hay lofts in winter, as it was above the animals and therefore a lot warmer than in the house area of the barn.

Zenders is a reconstruction of the original building – every effort has been made to retain its authenticity.


1930s to late 1940s

Life in the 1950s was considerably different to life now.

The Netherlands, like much of Europe, suffered significantly in the times of the World Wars and adjusting to life post war was difficult. The economy was struggling and the process of rebuilding the country was being undertaken.

Jan and Betsy were born in the early 1930s so experienced World War II as children. It wasn’t uncommon for soldiers to take over the houses of Dutch families, meaning the families moved into the barn or sties.

Jan was the youngest of thirteen children. It was typical of Dutch families of the time to have larger families, aligning with their traditional religious values.

The family farm was central to all that the family did – it was their source of income, source of food, and their livelihood. 

Everyone in the family had their role to play. The younger children were left to tend to the chicken and pigs. The older sisters were keepers of the home, preparing the family’s meals, undertaking the housework, and milking the cows. The older brothers were responsible for taking care of the land and the larger animals.

Everything that was produced on the farm was utilised. As was common of the time, self-sufficiency was common. Any surplus was sold off at the local market or traded between neighbours.

It wasn’t all work though – there were times where the family were able to get out and have fun. Jan would spend his free time out with his friends, at a dance, ice skating, playing cards, watching movies or on a bike ride to visit cousins who had moved away.


the early 1950s

The 1950s saw many Dutch people evaluating their futures. They were looking for opportunities overseas which would provide them with greater futures than staying in Holland would. As a result, Dutch people formed the largest group of non-British immigrants in the world.

At the time, New Zealand had realised that population growth was needed to create a sustainable country. A migration agreement was signed in October 1950.

Migration in the 1950s was different to now – if you left, it was a one-way ticket and you were unlikely to return home to the Netherlands.

Making the move to New Zealand was a big decision for Jan and Betsy Reymer. There were opportunities to move to South America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The key reasons for choosing New Zealand were the opportunities within the agriculture sector and the knowledge of established and strong public services.

Jan always hoped of having a career in farming – he even completed a diploma in the Netherlands in agriculture. He saw that in New Zealand there were numerous opportunities for Dutch immigrants to work on the land.


1950s to late 1990s

Jan was able get a job on a farm where he learnt about the New Zealand way to farm. He was also able to use his existing knowledge from farm life in the Netherlands to his job.

The Dutch were known for their strong work ethic as well as their thriftiness. As a result, many farmers found themselves able to purchase their own farms not long after migrating to New Zealand. Jan and Betsy settled onto their own farm in Tihiroa in the early 1960s.

Dutch people were known for their innovation and have made a strong contribution to New Zealand's agriculture development.


In the mid 1970s, Jan had seen a silage wagon while on holiday in the Netherlands - this seemed a lot easier than using a pitchfork!  On his return to New Zealand, he enquired as to why they weren’t readily available here and began the process to import one of his own.

Many immigrants found that life in New Zealand was extremely different to home. Most Dutch people spoke very little or no English and had to learn how to speak the language while at work. Many colloquialisms were not understood – the idea to ‘bring a plate’ to a community gathering had many scratching their heads. New Zealand homes had ovens, which were only seen at the local bakers in the Netherlands.

There are many links between New Zealand agriculture and Dutch agriculture. Massy University and Wageningen University collaborate on research on issues such as global food safety, agriculture and environmental policy, and agricultural economy. Both countries are active in the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases which focuses on ways to grow food without growing greenhouse emissions.

The values of family and working together on the land were important to Jan and Betsy.  The farm was the backbone of their livelihood - it was where they raised their ten children, they used the land to produce their own fruits and vegetables, and it was how they made an income to support their family.  


As a result, agriculture and related industries are now the basis for many of their children's livelihoods. The attitudes and values that started back in the 1900's continue in the future generations.


2000s onwards

Today, a large portion of the New Zealand population has connections with the Netherlands. It is estimated that 45,000 Dutch Citizens reside in New Zealand, with approximately 100,000 New Zealanders identifying as being of Dutch descent.

Trade relations between both countries are also strong. New Zealand exports large quantities of meat, dairy products and aluminium to the Netherlands, and imports notable amounts of machinery and food preparations.

The Zenders story is one of the many with connections between the Netherlands and New Zealland. The idea was conceived by three sisters who, armed with the original blueprints of their great-grandfather’s farmhouse in the Netherlands, wanted to create a place that celebrates their parents’ journey from the Netherlands to the Waikato - a story that resonates with many others.

The Zenders narrative draw inspiration from key milestones of Jan and Betsy's journey: life in the Netherlands post world war 2, the immigration journey, and settling into agricultural life in the Waikato. We honour stories and memories as they have told them, snippets of history forever remembered. 

Zenders is a values-based business – our values are top priority and are what we live by. Every decision we make is part of the bigger picture and we are committed to applying this philosophy across all aspects of the Zenders journey.

The building is now our cornerstone, acting as a place to meet, gather and connect, marking milestones with meaning.

439 Ruakura Road, Hamilton, New Zealand
 +64 7 595 0640  | info@zenders.nz

Zenders  |  est. 2018