Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

27 February 2010

Open 7 Days 13. Mangamairie Store

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.

Tutaekara Road, Mangamaire, Wairarapa.
Proprietors: Jan and Eric Bird

Reversing the customary drift to the cities, Jan and Eric Bird forsook the mirrors of Wellington in 1986 for the pastoral tranquility of northern Wairarapa. What Jan describes as ‘life before Mangamaire’ was spent in Linden, where she and Eric both grew up, married, built their own home and raised three children. As soon as the family left home, Eric and Jan upped stakes and bought the Mangamaire Store. They love it there so much that they’ve bought additional land, on which they run sheep and beef cattle - that’s what the Wairarapa is all about.

The store’s white-painted plaster is reminiscent of the fresh, neat houses of Devon villages and is in stark contrast to the gloomy angles of the derelict cheese factory opposite, on whose roof the lettering ‘Rexdale Dairy Coy. Ltd’ may still be seen.

Jan believes the store goes back to 1906 and is on land previously owned by the dairy company, which closed in 1956. There was a post office next door from 1898, which was moved and run together with the store when it was established. The post office became a Postal Delivery Centre (PDC) in 1988. The Birds still handle counter mail and run the rural mail delivery, combined with bread, milk, newspapers and groceries.
Recently Mangamaire, which lies slightly west of State Highway 2 between Pahiatua and Eketahuna, has experienced an improvement in trade because its road has been upgraded to provide an alternative route between Masterton and Palmerston North, diverging from the main ‘Pahiatua Track’. This bonus, coupled with the amalgamation of five local schools into the one in the village, has increased sales of food, petrol and oil.


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By Don Donovan