Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

17 March 2010

Open 7 Days 22. Karamea Hardware 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.

Market Cross, Karamea, West Coast.
Proprietors: Bill and Marg Heath
Langfords Store at Bainham and Karamea Store are at opposite ends of the Heaphy Track: sixty kilometres as the crow flies. Yet they could be world’s apart, separated as they are by the rugged and remote fastnesses of the Tasman Mountains.

The store was built in 1915 across the road from its present site. It was shifted in 1920 and enlarged somewhat, but you can still see the original part if you look carefully, it’s the right-hand side from the front doors to that false gable on the corner above the windbreak netting that protects the plants for sale.

Bill and Marg took over in 1979. They previously lived in Glenavy on the Waitaki River, until Bill happened to see the store advertised in the newspaper his lunch was wrapped in. They felt it wouldn’t be a bad spot in which to bring up their three kids, and they’ve never looked back.

In some ways the store has come a full circle, because it started out as a post office and in 1988 became one again. It used to sell general groceries, and up until late 1989 was still selling meat and bread as well as hardware. That seemed to confuse visitors, but the locals found nothing strange in buying a bag of nails and a kibbled-wheat loaf! These days the stock consists of hardware, clothing, gifts, toys, gardening supplies, haberdashery, veterinary and farming goods, postal services and local crafts; and if there’s something you want that they haven’t got, they’ll get it.

Community notice board.
Karamea enjoys a freak mild climate, which helps lure visitors in large numbers. But on occasions you can join the local dairy farmers and experience the thrills of being cut off from civilization. Power breakdowns are not unheard of, neither are snow falls in the winter, and there’s only one road in and out of Karamea - unless, of course, you fancy walking the Heaphy Track!


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By Don Donovan