Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

13 May 2010

Open 7 Days 37. Okains Bay 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.
Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula.
Proprietor: Chris Stanger.
Chris Stanger is a solo parent. He finds living in Okains Bay perfect for his lifestyle because while he works the shop, his sons go to the school whose front gate is less than a gumboot’s throw across the road. Chris, a mechanic by trade who has served time as a truckie, took over the store in 1987 for a bit of peace and quiet. He now looks after the needs of about forty families, but gets very busy for eight weeks in the summer when the local camping ground accommodates about 400 holidaymakers.

Because Okains Bay is so isolated, Chris doesn’t quite suffer the problems other country storekeepers have of competition from big-town supermarkets. That means he carries a more comprehensive inventory of groceries, dairy lines, petrol and oil, hardware and home-brew supplies. The store has the postal agency and is the fire group’s call-out point. It also provides a focus for news and advice, and Chris often finds himself consulted about marriage guidance, household budgeting, fixing the car, employment and how to achieve a successful home-brew.

It’s a great old building, very original, with two old kauri counters in the shop. When things are quiet in the winter, Chris manufactures garden gnomes – a gang of seven plaster dwarfs – which he sells, either naked or painted, both in the store and to garden centres in Christchurch – The Big Smoke north of the Port Hills beyond Lyttelton Harbour.


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By Don Donovan