The Man Behind The Brand: Harkers Herbals
Wander down the main street of Waipu and you’ll find Harker Herbals, a natural wellness business founded by the late Malcolm Harker in 1981.
Waipu counts Malcolm among its more colourful characters. Famous for his herbal tonics (and legendary parties), Malcolm returned to New Zealand in the late 1970s very ill. Several years working and playing hard in Australia had not been kind to his health. After trying prescription drugs and surgery to treat his chronic diseases, Malcolm turned to traditional herbal remedies and good nutrition.
It was a lifestyle change that kick started both his health and a new career. With Malcolm looking (and feeling) the best he had for years, people arrived on his doorstep looking for answers to their own health problems.
Malcolm opened his first business, The Herbal Clinic in Grey Lynn, using a five-litre pot and a one-element stove, creating herbal remedies to treat everything from skin disorders to lung congestion. His first tonics used organic apple cider vinegar which, combined with bitter herbs, were not the most pleasant tasting. Malcolm’s solution was to add 30% Manuka honey. So far so good, except for the resulting fermentation; the tonics self-destructed after a week with patients reporting ruined fridges and splattered wallpaper. Malcolm had to quickly revise his formulas!
Despite the initial challenges, Malcolm enjoyed enormous success, treating patients around New Zealand. He went on to train as a master herbalist, earning a Master of Herbology in Advanced Herbal Medicine from Emerson College, Quebec. Resettling in Waipu, he opened Harker Herbals and the rest, as they say, is history.
Although Malcolm sold his business to private New Zealand investors several years ago, he continued to be involved, nurturing the next generation of talent with his own natural health course and writing his own Health and Healing manual. When he passed away suddenly in December 2017 there was an outpouring of condolences and happy memories shared on social media; news of his death reached more than 50,000 people.
Harker Herbals continues to make Malcolm’s original formulas, selling them at their Waipu shop and through pharmacies and health stores throughout New Zealand. To complement Malcolm’s tonics, Harker’s brought herbalist Paul Mitchell on board to make a contemporary range of herbal syrups for children. The children’s syrups were so well received that last year a high strength version for adults was added to the Harker Herbals range.
Around the first anniversary of Malcolm’s death, a catastrophic fire burnt down the premises Harker Herbals had called home for many years. The team has opened a temporary shop at 8 The Centre, where they can watch their new store being rebuilt just across the road. Malcolm’s legacy is set to continue in contemporary style.