Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

11 February 2010

Open 7 Days 4. Supa Rupa, Freemans Bay, Auckland

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.

103 Wellington Street, Freemans Bay, Auckland.
Proprietors: Dilip and Sarda Rupa

I’ll lay a pound to a pinch of Mrs Rupa senior’s special curry powder that this is the most photographed store in New Zealand. It’s on calendars, in books, films and television commercials. It’s a joy to an artist’s eye, a delightful dilapidation, but Dilip Rupa is ambivalent about it.

On the one hand, he has a deep attachment to the place where his parents made their home in 1953 after moving from Wellington. On the other, he and his sister Sarda regret that, although conscious of its historic charm and despite insisting that designs for a new store retained the frontage of both buildings, they were prevented from redeveloping on the site in 1987.

The wooden portion was erected around 1890, and the cement-rendered brick structure followed about twenty years later. It seems odd that in an area of fashionable rediscovery and renewal this old store should survive, but by doing so it adds enormous character to Freemans Bay, a neighbourhood of extreme contrasts, from low-income council tenants to wealthy townhouse residents. They all patronise Supa Rupa, and in return Supa Rupa, abundantly stocked, makes sure their needs are satisfied.
I asked Dilip how the store got its name, and he told me that when his sister, Pam, was a nurse she had a young patient who called her Super Rupa. Super store, Supa Rupa!


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By Don Donovan