The recent announcement of its closure is a sad one for its community. Local resident Julie Walls gives an account of the store’s history since it was opened in 1987.
IT was the 1980s and Te Anau was being touted as a tourist destination of the future and the population was growing.
H & J Smith directors could see there was a future in this holiday home haven, so decided to open a branch of its department store.
The company bought Ace Stores from Dirkje Veenstra and Christina (Stina) Mooyman. At the time it was was the largest non-food retail store in Te Anau and comprised of several specialists in one building.
The store opened on April 4, 1987, with Graeme Wicks appointed as manager. He remained until 1993.
It was Mr Wicks who was in charge as the store underwent a $1 million redevelopment throughout 1987 and 1988 and when the new refurbishment was officially opened in 1988.
The store was expanded to become one shop, it was given a new facade, new roof, and was also extended.
The new refurbishment included a temperature/clock display similar to the one at its flagship store in Invercargill.
Initially the store traded as a full department store stocking all the products it does now but also appliances, whitewear, furniture and gifts. Over time it phased out some of these departments and focused its business on clothing, footwear, home linens, fabrics and toys.
Also incorporated in the original setup was Carpet World which operated from a shed at the rear of the store. This was later dispensed with in the early 1990s.
About the same time, the Hide Shop was opened and operated successfully under the management of Noeline Irwin. The Taiwanese market was the focus of this store and it was not uncommon for it to be open all hours of the night catering for tours by the bus load. The Hide Shop was integrated back into the main store in 1997.
Last week H & J Smith announced it would close some of the stores in its network and consolidate its operations back to the home base of Invercargill to secure the long-time future of its retail division. The Te Anau store will close at the end of next month.