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No warning for ‘shocked’ shop owners

Tenants of Empire Lodge must vacate by September 22. PHOTO/FILE

Big Save arrival leaves tenants scrambling for new accommodation

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Business owners in the buildings set to be demolished to make way for a new furniture chain store in Masterton are “shocked” by the news, along with the fact they must vacate their premises in as little as nine weeks.

The majority of the six businesses based in the two earthquake-prone buildings, the Empire Lodge and its neighbour on Queen St, only found out on Wednesday that the buildings had been sold.

Twelve long-term residents of the lodge, including a 72-year-old, must find alternative accommodation.

Big Save Furniture director Lily Salter confirmed the purchase of the two buildings on Tuesday afternoon.

A new store, up to 1000m2 in size, and including a cafe, is expected to open on the site early next year.

The building’s owner, former Masterton mayor Garry Daniell, said he was notified shortly before 5pm on Tuesday night that the sale had gone unconditional.

The business owners were told, via a letter, they had to be out of their stores by September 22.

Daniell said this date was negotiated with Big Save and could not be extended.

“I have contacted the majority of the current tenants [Wednesday morning] to advise them they will need to get out in due course, but beyond that nothing more has happened.”

He said he did not mention the sale negotiations to the tenants earlier due to the uncertainty of the sale.

“There have been several occasions where people have looked at this site, and for various reasons nothing has eventuated.

“So until I had word from my lawyer at five-to-five [on Tuesday] night that it had gone unconditional, there was no point in doing anything else.”

The Big Save store will replace the Empire Lodge accommodation, ArrowFM, Taste Cafe, Discount Specialists, Wairarapa Vapez on Queen St, and the Masterton Foodbank at the rear of the building.

Taste Cafe owner Dean Lawton said Daniell dropped off the letter Wednesday morning.

After being a tenant for 10 years, Daniell had just “destroyed my livelihood”, he said.

The letter was delivered with “no apology, no good luck, no thanks for being a good tenant”, Lawton said.

The lack of communication and the short notice worried him despite an approach from Big Save to manage its new cafe.

He said he appreciated the offer and would consider it, but questioned what he, and his three fulltime staff would do in the meantime.

“A nice new cafe will be great on their behalf, but also I have staff to worry about and if we open in six months’ time how do I secure them?”

The costs involved in moving out of his current premises and into the new cafe needed to be calculated before any decisions were made, he said.

Lawton said Daniell had mentioned to him that he was in negotiations with a buyer, but he had not been updated.

“Two months’ notice is not good enough, even an extra four weeks would be great.”

Lawton will organise a meeting with all tenants, Daniell, and Big Save to try negotiate a later departure date.

Discount Specialist owner Shen Dong opened her new business, a tobacco store, at the beginning of the year after moving into an empty shop.

Dong said she had invested all her savings into the store, including spending money on security cameras and safety bars at the counter.

Daniell came in Wednesday morning with the letter – “he had already sold the building before telling us”, she said.

She could not afford the relocation costs, she said.

Empire Lodge accommodation owner Bill Shand said he also found out Wednesday morning.

Shand and his wife, Helen, have owned the business since 2004.

Along with 12 permanent residents, the lodge offers backpacker facilities.

While they only owned the chattels, he said he would need to speak to his accountant and lawyer about what to do next.

Wairarapa Vapez manager Brendon Olsen said he had contacted Daniell on Wednesday about the sale after hearing of it “through the grapevine”.

He was concerned where the store could go as “rents are more expensive elsewhere compared to the building”.

ArrowFm radio board chair Dave Sinton said he was told “last minute” and was “in the process of trying to find somewhere else”.

Masterton FoodBank manager Lyn Tankersley said she found out on Friday and was starting to look for new premises.

Daniell said going forward, the new store was a great opportunity for that site.

“I’m pleased that opportunity will be there and I’m well aware it will disrupt a number of people.”

While it was not a requirement for him to find the tenants an alternative location, he and the development’s project manager Dave Borman said they would work with the tenants to find places among Masterton’s many vacant shops.

Bring it on, say Big Save competitors

Masterton has about six dedicated furniture shops, and with another one to set up shop in the town, most established furniture stores welcome the competition.

The new Big Save furniture store will be added to a list that includes Bryan’s Furniture, Mills Bros, Bedstop Masterton, Country Life Interiors, The Whole Nine Yards, and Beds 4 U.

Bedstop Masterton owner Dean Taylor said any new store that kept people shopping locally would be good for local business.

“If they bought something in Palmerston North then we have lost them, but if they go to Big Save locally they are only a couple of minutes away to be able to compare with what we have got,” he said.

Mills Bros Masterton store manager Paul Davidson said the new store was good for the local economy and he looked forward to the competition

The store had always competed with furniture stores “over the hill” but the store had a point of difference, which locals preferred.

The Whole Nine Yards store owner Julie Tulloch said she did not consider Big Save a direct competitor, but the new store was a “good sign the town was on the up”.

Beds 4 U store manager Amish Pal said the new store would definitely introduce more competition for the store, offering customers the chance to compare quality and prices.


  1. Are they going to try and save the beautiful store fronts? Or are we going to losses more of the history and charm that makes Masterson’s main drag beautiful. If they want a new building why not stick them in the empty bit by ASB and the bottle store. That’s been empty almost the whole time it’s been there. If it’s not big enough for them, kick out the bottle store, we don’t need it. The last thing we need is a Mitre 10 sized furniture store in the middle of town.

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