Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

14 March 2010

Open 7 Days 20. The Old Tua Marina 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. 

Tuamarina, Marlborough.
Proprietors: John and Gabi Muir
Old New Zealand hotels have something in common with Texas courthouses - a tendency to be burned to the ground. That’s what happened to the first building on the site of the Old Tua Marina Store. The two-storey tavern went up in smoke in 1904, and the store dates from that time.

John and Gabi Muir met at a birthday party in Tuamarina in 1974, when John, an Australian, was staying briefly in the neighbourhood while on a hiking tour. Twelve years and three children later, they were visiting the old town from their home in Australia when they discovered that the store was up for sale, so they bought it there and then.

These days this obviously cherished old building trades as a gift and craft shop, serving teas and refreshments. It is also the post office, which means it continues to be a centre of community affairs. Between 1905 and 1983 it was a general store in the fullest sense, and the decision to turn it into the kind of business it is now was occasioned by extensive damage caused by major flooding of the local rivers, the Wairau and the Tuamarina.
The famous ‘Wairau Massacre’ happened here in 1843, when a posse of settlers led by Colonel Wakefield tried to arrest a Maori party, under the command of Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata, in a land dispute. The Maori won. The incident is commemorated in the hilltop cemetery and across the road from the store in a rest area by the tranquil Tuamarina stream.

The Main Trunk railway connecting Picton with the south passes the store. ‘In these more peaceful times,’ Gabi writes, ‘the train engine drivers often stop at the crossing and dash over to buy one of John’s New Zealand-famous pies - the ones with the money-back guarantee!’


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By Don Donovan