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All about Stores at Piha

Posted by SC Comments Off on All about Stores at Piha

Jack Ingram’s store at the Piha Mill, about 1916

The first store at Piha was at the Piha Mill, run by Jack Ingram, brother of the first Mill manager, Chris Ingram. Jack was married to Mary Bethell, daughter of Pa Bethell up the coast at Te Henga.

Jack Ingram sold food and stores to the families and single men working at the Mill, though the married women also cooked scones and cakes and sold these direct to the bushmen and millhands.

As Jack ran cattle over the hills, he was able to provide meat to the villagers as well as to the cookhouse that provided meals for the single men.

This photo is taken from a much larger photo as there are no photos I know of of Jack Ingram’s store. I’ve put in the photo big so you can see the words “Store and Refreshments” on the front.

When the Mill closed in 1921, that was the end of Jack’s store, as the workers and their families moved elsewhere. Jack and Mary joined his brother Chris at the mill at Powelltown in Victoria.

The small store (left) established by the Piha Hotel, photo about 1936

With the demise of the Mill, supplies had to be brought in from Glen Eden and Henderson or bought or bartered from other settlers. The Piha boarding house was established in 1922 and it too could provide milk and a few other staples, as well as offering teas and a sit-down meal to visitors. Before long it established a store in a small building near the entrance to Garden Road, which provided refreshments to day trippers and campers in the weekends. The store opened when there were crowds, offering lollies and drinks, and when the bus service started, ice creams. The ice cream came in a big can which stayed cold enough to get through the weekend. Jessie Le Grice or one of the boarding house staff manned the counter.

When the Brownes leased the Piha Hotel from the Le Grice’s in the 1930s, Bill Browne, the son of the family, ran this little store. This was the place the bus arrived at and left from, so there were plenty of takers for the drinks and ices on offer. Once again this photos is cropped out of a much larger photo so it is a bit indistinct.

Mrs Ketterer’s beachfront store to the right. The woman on left is feeding the abandoned mill donkeys who roamed Piha

The first seaside store offering drinks and icecreams to visitors was established on the Piha beachfront in 1933 by Mrs Consuelo Ketterer who came from Helensville. From recent research I have done, it seems that Mrs Ketterer’s younger brother, Herbert William Taylor, was also involved in this enterprise, as he wrote to the Commissioner of Crown Lands in 1933, describing himself as owner of a store in Piha, asking if he could place advertising signs for such things as cigarettes on Lion Rock and other rocks at Piha.  He soon backed off when he realised that there was a high degree of disapproval of his plan amongst local bach owners and he did not want to lose their business.

Mrs Ketterer’s fairly makeshift store was built on Marine Parade South. It offered soft drinks, chocolates, ice creams and snacks as well as hot water for sixpence for picnickers who wanted to make a pot of tea. In those days before any public provision of amenities, there were attached changing rooms for the use of the public, as well as parking.

Thirsty beachgoers, who numbered thousands on a hot day, queued up for drinks. Mrs Ketterer stored her drinks at an old bach (later Cullens) on Marine Parade. When my mother and her girlfriends rented this bach they found it stacked with cases of ginger beer. Mum and her girlfriends and their boyfriends helped themselves to this treasure, removing the glass marble stoppers and replacing the consumed ginger beer with water.

Mrs Ketterer’s Beach Valley Road shop, established 1935

In 1935 Mrs Ketterer built a second store, inland in Beach Valley Road (then called Valley Road). She already owned the old Railway Clerk’s house in Beach Valley Road, and built the store next door, opposite where today’s RSA is located. She added tearooms where people could get an afternoon tea, a cold lunch or even a hot dinner. The store also stocked groceries, fresh bread and local milk in big churns. People could organise to have their meat delivered via the bus for which the store was its base.

Advertisement for Mrs Ketterer’s Beach Valley Road store 1952

The store was liberally plastered with enamelled tin advertising signs, for Tip Top ice cream, the Auckland Star, Capstans and Craven A. Inside, there was a magnificent pinball machine which could be played once the requisite coin was inserted.

Les and Myra Crichton, who had been running the Piha Store (more later), took over the Beach Valley Road store in about 1958 and ran it for a few years. The Crichtons’ son, John, remembers that there were boxes of old watch parts in the cupboards, a legacy of Carl Ketterer, that he used to play with. At some point, Mrs Ketterer’s son Reg, and his wife June, took over the beachfront store, and then in 1960 also took back the running of the Beach Valley Road shop and tearooms, so Piha was back to having Ketterers running both shops.

As well as the range of products that had been stocked by his mother, Reg added new products, some of which had become popular with the American post-War cultural influence – toasted sandwiches, hot dogs, coffee, hamburgers, and frozen food. Bread and meat arrived at both stores by 8 am daily, brought in on the early bus run. The store stocked cosmetics, magazines, chemist lines, paint, nails, cement, tinware, and all the things you needed to go fishing off the rocks, reels, rods, sinkers and bait.

By 1962, “Porpy” (short for “Porpoise” because of his swimming style) Neale had taken over the store and it seem to have closed at some time in the next few years.

Piha Store, opened 1945. Note the bus and passengers

Meanwhile, the store that is still today called the Piha Store was opened across the other side of the Domain by the Poples in 1945. It was actually built by their son, Doug, who had not long ago left school. The Poples had bought the boarding house from the Le Grices in 1941, and also took over the milking sheds which stood near where the old school stands today. From an early date the store also operated as the Post Office for Piha.  It housed the telegraph and telephone services, Piha being on a party-line system. The daily trip to the store involved having a look at the blackboard where the names of those receiving telegrams was chalked up.

Myra Crichton (in front), Dot Mercier and Les Crichton, outside Piha Store

In 1950, the Crichtons took this over this store and added some innovations, reflecting Les Crichton’s proficiency with photography and film. Thus he introduced a camera counter, and printing and photography services. The store stocked stationery, magazines and books, and boasted a library as well as being the Herald agent. It now called itself a Milk Bar as well as a Post Office Store, and delicious cold milkshakes could be had in flavours like creaming soda and caramel.

We deliver the goods was the Crichtons’ slogan.

A point of distinction for the store, was that it stocked oil, kerosene and petrol with an iconic Shell bowser out the front, and it could recharge a battery, all a boon for travellers taking on the rugged Piha Road.

The Crichtons gave up the Piha Store when they crossed the valley to take over from Mrs Ketterer, and the Piha Store was taken over by Tom and Irene Murray in 1954.

By 1960, the Chubbs were the new owners of the Piha Store, and by 1963, Len Glass. I am still working on the owners in the 1960s and 1970s and will fill this in as I find out.

Recently (August 2014) I was contacted by a member of the O’Rorke family who helped fill in this gap.

John and Kath O’Rorke bought the Piha Store off Dave Achieson in late 1972/early 73. Their daughter-in-law Lynda worked in the store as did other family members. The O’Rorkes sold the business but kept the land and buildings and moved into Glen Eden, but the new business owner went broke, so the O’Rorkes had to move back and refit the shop as creditors had stripped the place of fittings, plant and stock.

They ran it for another 18 months to get it profitable again and then sold it as a going concern including the land and buildings.

In 1982, the then store owners, Jan Archer and Dennis Olsen, decided they no longer wished to run postal services from the store and the stand-alone Post Office was established by the community.

In 1986, Hans and Romy Mueller arrived to take over the store with their friends the Biedemans. The Muellers had owned a bach at the top of the hill for some time, so they knew Piha. Hans had been a chef at Waitangi Hotel and The Hermitage, and had run a restaurant called Treveris in Glen Eden, while the Biedemans had owned a delicatessen in Henderson. It was Hans Mueller who started the tradition of continental-style baking at the Piha Store.

The Muellers tried to start a tearooms or coffee bar in the Piha Store but were unable to meet the Council requirements for on-site toilets so while alterations were made to the building, shrinking the shop area, the planned eating place never eventuated.

The Chapmans arrived in ?. Innovations they introduced were the surf shop now run by Ian Ratso Buchanan, a line of high-quality bakery items, and an espresso machine.

Johnnie Oxspring’s takeaway bar on the beachfront next to the Piha Surf Club, photo Webber Family

On the beachfront, a takeaway bar started by Johnnie Oxspring was a source of great controversy when it got going in the 1950s. Although Oxspring was a surf club member, the club objected to the construction of the concrete block shoe-box on its boundary. For years the takeaway bar was boycotted by the club, with members preferring to walk to the Piha Store for an ice cream or chips than slip next door.

As a child, I used to take orders for club members who would get me and my friend Toni to buy their takeaways and icecreams without having to put a foot in the place themselves. This was of course done for a cut of the goodies.

The place went through a number of hands and was owned by Howard Dawson before it became Bon’s on the Beach. Howard was also Piha’s pastry cook, milkman and mailman. He often caught his own fish for his fish and chips which were judged the best in the West.

In 2017 when it was run by Adie and Vicki Doggett it was the subject of an arson attack which severely damaged it. As at 2019, it is operating with a food truck called “Murrays”.

This outline of stores at Piha would not be complete without mentioning the Bevin Canteen owned by Alister Bevin and often manned by his son, Peter.  During the 1950s, this sat on the beach near the Piha Stream outlet and sold cold drinks and Eskimo Pies.

And there was the little store at The Gap, run by the Philipsons, where you could get tea and drinks, and pay threepence to go and see the Blowhole which was on their land.

Owners of Piha Store (to be added to as information comes in)

1945 Charles and Rachel Pople

1950 Les and Myra Crichton

1954 Tom and Irene Murray

1959 Chubbs

1963 Len Glass

1970s Dave and ? Achieson

1972 John and Kath O’Rourke (two periods of ownership)

1970s? Judy and ? Duff

1982 Jan Archer and Dennis Olsen

1984 Russell and Diane Emmas

1986 Fred and Gisela Biedeman and Hans and Romy Mueller

Sarah and Pete Chapman

Pete Chapman

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