Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

28 February 2010

Open 7 Days 14. Mauriceville General 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.

Opaki-Kaipororo Highway, Mauriceville, Wairarapa.
Proprietors: Patrick and Denise Whyte

Mauriceville was founded by Scandinavian settlers in 1873, and only seven years later the general store began life. It’s had a chequered history, having been closed down twice because of hard times and suffering a devastating fire in the 1920s, scorch marks from which can still be seen on the outside of the building. Fortunately somebody rescued the unusual carved wooden window frames, they are built in to the modern shop.

Patrick and Denise took the store on in 1988 after it had been closed for a year. In the time they’ve been there they have put together a collection of old artefacts and memorabilia, which are on display in the store and which they hope to build into a major attraction.

With that in mind, they bought the old Mauriceville railway station with the intention of moving it closer to the store and developing it into a tearooms and museum. But the project is on hold while New Zealand’s economy suffers recession. Sadly, they are not sure whether they can even carry on trading the store, an uncertainty that only serves to emphasize the marginal state of Mauriceville in modern times.

In days past, when smaller farm lots were sustainable, the town flourished and was capable of not only supporting the store but also a dairy factory, large hotel, saddlery, library, churches, a timber mill, two smithies and a freight company. The lime works is still in existence.
Mauriceville General Store has a rare, possibly unique, Masterton Licensing Trust licence to sell all forms of alcohol, including some interesting local wines. I hope the store will be able to continue to supply the town with liquor, groceries, petrol, oil and perishables, and that when better times come it will not be too late for Patrick and Denise Whyte to realize their dream of a museum in the old railway station.

Railway station window


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By Don Donovan