Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

08 April 2010

Open 7 Days 26. Arrowtown Stores

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.

24 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown, Central Otago.
Proprietors: Alexander, Elaine and John Hamilton
According to the histories, Arrowtown came into being in 1862, which is also the date of claimed establishment of the store. But Robert Pritchard was not the first storekeeper, and the shops were not set up in Buckingham Street until after the flood of 1863.

John Hamilton, who now runs the store, believes that Pritchard probably ‘established’ his first store in a tent on the river beach. I surmise that the store you see today was built a little later, when the future of the town had become more assured.

John’s father, Alexander, still takes great interest in the affairs of the store, and they both insist on operating it in the spirit of the traditional general store.

Within the two-foot-thick walls of this solid old building a lot of memorabilia have accumulated, including a magnificent set of brass scales that tourists regularly try to buy. Tourism is now the heart of Arrowtown’s economy and is the major reason why the store will never suffer the depredations of overt ‘modernisation’.

Alexander Hamilton worked in the store for Rattray and Son from 1952 and bought the business from them in 1965, but the Hamilton family is as old as Arrowtown. They intermarried with the Cotters, one of the first three families in the district, and John’s grandmother, Mrs Alex. Hamilton, a Cotter by birth, wrote an often quoted historical monograph titled ‘Notes on Early Arrowtown’.
‘We’ve still got that at home’ says John. ‘We call it “The Black Book”’.


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By Don Donovan