Iconic arcade celebrates 50 years in heart of downtown

By Michele Hunter

1 comment
Neville Stewart, Lawrence Stewart and Don Stewart have had their store - Don Stewart Jewellers - in Picadilly Arcade since the arcade opened 50 years ago. Photo/John Borren
Neville Stewart, Lawrence Stewart and Don Stewart have had their store - Don Stewart Jewellers - in Picadilly Arcade since the arcade opened 50 years ago. Photo/John Borren

The brick and tile arcade, which opened to foot traffic on November 30, 1966, links Devonport Rd and Grey St and is a well-known thoroughfare and shopping hub for locals.

Original tenants, Neville and Lawrence Stewart, learned the jewellery and watch-making trades from their father, Don, and the trio have run Don Stewart Jewellers together for more than half a decade.

Mr Stewart (senior), now 87, still works in the shop until 2pm each day while his sons, aged 61 and 64, are planning for their retirement.

When the arcade opened, the jewellery shop relocated from Wharf St to the shop which is now home to the Silky Oak Chocolate Company, before moving to their current location, on the corner of the arcade and Devonport Rd, in 1971.

The arcade under construction.
The arcade under construction.

The two brothers put the business' success down to the fact they service clocks and watches, including some dating back to the 18th century - one of only two jewellery shops to do so in Tauranga.

They don't believe in having 'sales', but instead selling good quality products at fair prices.

"We've stuck to our knitting," said Neville.

They now have third generation clients and recently repaired a ring they originally sold in the 1960s.

They also buy and sell scrap gold and have one of the largest selections of greenstone jewellery in the country.

The men admit it was the easy road to follow in their father's footstep and get out of school, but the specialised trade has served them both well since.

Their skills are now a sought after rarity which they will carry into retirement.

They have seen a lot of changes in Tauranga's retail scene but are positive about the future of the arcade and city centre.

They say a lot of the empty shops relate to earthquake strengthening while many have been recently leased.

"The CBD is going through some growing pains at the moment and it will come right," said Neville.

"Negativity is not the way to go, you've got to be positive and talk positive."

When the men started in retail one of their busiest times was Friday night shopping.

"Seven to nine, it was a huge part of your week," he said.

The introduction of Saturday trading had simply shifted some of the trade from throughout the week, he said.

The arcade under construction.
The arcade under construction.

A week of 50th birthday celebrations will begin on Monday at Piccadilly Arcade.
Emma Cole, who opened her florist and retro store about two years ago, said she had heard numerous stories about the arcade, including one about a friend driving her Mini car through it.

The cafe in the centre of the arcade, now called The Terrace, once had an open courtyard filled with tropical plants and a fish pond.

Visitors would dress up to go to town and eat there.

"Back in the day it was the place to go because there wasn't the cafe culture that there is now," Mrs Cole said.

"It's a great little arcade. We like it, it's got an atmosphere. A lot of big shopping centres don't, it's quite a cosy feeling I guess," she said. "I think it's a much-loved arcade from what I gather and people have really happy memories," she said.

She loved the historic look of the original silver framing around the shop windows.

Mrs Cole said a lot of those who considered Tauranga downtown to be "dead" were mistaken.

"They have no idea. They haven't been here for three years," she said.

Downtown offered a range of unique boutique-style shops. The arcade attracted a lot of foot traffic.

"When it's raining in here it's busy too, a lot of other places go quiet, but this doesn't."

From Wednesday, one of a selection of Bay of Plenty Garden and Arts Festival urban gardens will be opened outside The Hawker's Wall, opposite the cafe.

Mrs Cole, who has created the garden, said it would be eye-catchingly bright and encouraged passers-by to take a selfie in the garden.

Anyone who makes a purchase in the arcade next week will also have the opportunity to enter a raffle for a hamper valued at more than $700, containing items from each of the stores.

"There's something for everybody, amazing stuff," Mrs Cole said.

A representative from the mayor's office will attend a celebratory morning tea and an unveiling of a 50th anniversary flag at the arcade on Wednesday.

Piccadilly Arcade Timeline

- November 1966 - Stage 1 of Piccadilly Arcade is nearing completion with the first of 19 tenants due to move in on November 30.

Contractor Gordon Decke describes work as being "right on schedule".

- Stage 2 including a restaurant, two shops, an open courtyard and a service dock due to open end of February 1967.

- November 1992 - The arcade received a facelift with architect Ian Butcher aiming for an "earthy 90s theme".

"In essence we skipped over the glitzy 80s look, to the more natural feel of the 90s," he said.

The upgrade included new facades and a covered courtyard replaced the exposed garden courtyard outside the new Maxwell's Mediterranean-style cafe.

- Bay of Plenty Times

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 27 Feb 2017 18:25:17 Processing Time: 762ms