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Fighting spirit revealed

Bryan Stott of Bryan’s Furniture, Richard Mason of Tom’s Autos, Richard McLeod of Bullick and Blackmore, Linda McCarthy of Willa Design, Lyn Patterson, Debbie Graham-Karaitiana of Milady’s, Warwick Delmonte of PaperPlus, Eve Clive-Griffin of The Screening Room and Monique Kloeg of Ten O’Clock Cookie Company. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Lisa Urbani

Masterton was founded in 1854 by the Small Farms Association, led by Joseph Masters.

It has been through Prohibition, world wars, earthquakes and economic downturns, and now, in 2020 – 166 years later – the very unexpected covid-19 pandemic caused the closure of many businesses in the town, for up to six weeks.

A survey of various businesses in town, chosen randomly and without favour, found that, its fighting spirit is not diminished – Masterton is definitely back in business.

Most had simply adapted, and were ready – [and primed with hand sanitisers, registration stations and stickers to denote social distancing] – to welcome their clients.

Many like Felicity Rose of ‘Urban Naturals’ in Kuripuni, and Debbie Graham-Karaitiana of ‘Milady’s’ in Masterton, had used the opportunity to set up websites.

Felicity said, “local support had been amazing,” while next door, Janine Ruscoe of ‘Polka Dots’, agreed that, “people are more conscious about shopping locally”.

This was a recurrent theme, the appeal to residents to support Wairarapa businesses, rather than going online.

Kuripuni shops Hebe and Tonik Hair Salon, have organised a Kuripuni Village Giveaway worth over $1200.

This competition is on Hebe Designer Boutique’s Facebook page, and the aim is to reward people for shopping locally.

The nearby Discovery Motor Lodge run by husband and wife team, Craig and Jo Edwards, was looking forward to hosting their regular corporate customers.

Jo said, “While covid-19 had a huge impact, we are not dependent on international tourists like some other towns. It’s starting to pick up, but we will need the events later in the year.”

Callum Perry of Perry’s Mart found that his clientele seemed “almost joyful to see each other”.

Kuripuni Gifts had been inundated with people catching up on bills and posting items, with Megan Brown saying that “no one is in a rush, they seem to have changed attitudes”.

“Retail in winter is hard, but we’ve got to keep positive,” she said.

Eve Clive-Griffin of The Screening Room, was appreciative of the efforts to buy local.

“I love it, it’s about getting your own house in order first, looking after your neighbour.”

Along Queen St, the comments were equally buoyant.

This sentiment was echoed by Warwick Delmonte of Paper Plus, but he also cautioned that while the ‘Buy Local’ campaign was very helpful, it was not a “miracle cure”, and businesses would have to work hard to earn their customers, and “reward the public’s current appetite for local, with a feast”.

He said a store needed to be “a destination where people liked to linger, with fresh offerings and ideas, and he had found success came from making friends, not just customers”.

“Friends come back, and relationships beat ‘20 per cent off sales’, every time.”

Willa Designs had only been in their new premises for nine months when covid-19 hit New Zealand.

The first year in a new business was the most difficult, but she saw the challenges as an “opportunity to plan some courses for lampshades, roman blind-making and a chalk painting workshop” and expressed her gratitude to those who had supported her.

Sara Mason of Toms Auto Services gave a shout out to their staff, who had worked for some of the time during the lockdown, doing essential vehicle work.

Saying they were really “proud of their team”, she also mentioned that they had the sense that many people were gearing up to take trips around New Zealand as there had been an increased interest in 4WD products like rooftop tents and racks, roofbox pods and bike racks.

The generous landlord who reduced the rent of The Whole Nine Yards was mentioned by co-owner, Julie Tulloch, who said that business was going really well.

For one of the oldest businesses in Masterton, King & Henry – in Masterton since 1873 – “things were looking positive” according to representative, Willie Roseingrave.

While Sue Bankier, owner of Room2Room, was also optimistic, she said we would have to wait and see what happened in the coming months.

Her business had weathered other downturns, but only “time would tell” what the real economic impact of covid-19 was on Masterton.

Mayor of Masterton, Lyn Patterson said, “Now is the time for us to show support to our local businesses. They back our community through sponsorship and fundraisers and employ our friends and families, so let us get out and support them.”

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