Rebuilding Christchurch business - your stories

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We're gathering stories about Christchurch small businesses rebuilding after the earthquake. Send us in your tips, resources, offers of help or questions that we can get answered.

Cafe owner Justin Good at his earthquake damaged cafe in Heathcote Valley. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Cafe owner Justin Good at his earthquake damaged cafe in Heathcote Valley. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Send your small business stories, suggestions, tips or help to nzherald.co.nz here

Click here or scroll to the bottom of the page for links and resources for small business.

Details of the Government employment assistance package are here.

The Christchurch Employers' Chamber of Commerce main earthquake information page is here.

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) is urging Christchurch businesses not to make hasty decisions about closing down permanently.

Canterbury CTU spokesman Marty Braithwaite said today a number of employers whose business premises had been destroyed or damaged by the earthquake had told staff they would close permanently.

He said those decisions should be delayed.

Agnes Almeida from Xocolatl on Fendalton Rd is unsure about the future of her business.

Xocolatl makes handmade artisan chocolates which are enjoyed by people all over New Zealand.

After the first quake, the building Xocolatl occupied was yellow-stickered, but they were still able to use the kitchen.

Almeida believes the building will now most likely be red-stickered once the engineers get out into the suburbs.

She said it is "devastating", but she is still "really lucky" as all her staff and family are safe.

Her landlord has recommended they do not enter the shop because it is not worth the risk, but Almeida hopes to get back in.

All her antique metal moulds are currently trapped in the store and she had just received 125kg of chocolate for her Easter production.

She said she has had so much support and it is "just so sweet".

One man from Levin rang her up offering premises to work from.

"People in New Zealand are so amazing."

Almeida is originally from Canada and thought about leaving, but after taking a few days out of Christchurch she found she missed it and "felt really bad for not being there.

"Who thought people would be offering premises and homes?"

Almeida does not know whether she will reopen yet. She started the business four years ago, after years of selling her chocolates at various markets.

"It's up to me if I want to reopen."

But with the economic conditions, Almeida asks: "Do I risk it or cut my losses and do something else?"

Michael Hanna, director of accountancy firm HP Hanna & Co, would like the government to relax the laws on professional offices working from home.

His office in Latimer Square is part of the area cordoned off, and he says he is not comfortable with allowing staff back in the building immediately after the ban is lifted, even if it deemed to be safe.

"There should be some commonsense provisions that allow professional offices to work from home - even if just for a temporary period," he says.

"The [rental] cost of a CBD commercial property has gone through the roof. They're wanting to tie tenants into longer leases, which makes it very difficult for businesses who want to relocate temporarily while work is being done.

"If they are forced into long leases and high rentals, it will make it hard for people to come back into the central city," Hanna says.

Sarah English from The Sweetheart Bakery has decided to close down the business and head out of Christchurch for awhile.

The company doesn't have a physical store to worry about, but did have a lot of orders cancelled due to the quake.

English operates the bakery through farmers' markets and orders from the company's website and has found revenue is down.

At the farmers' market last weekend she said "50 per cent of stalls weren't there and customers were few and far between".

The Sweetheart Bakery uses a commercial kitchen to make all of its delicious goodies, which came through unscathed.

English said the company was "quite lucky" because she knows of some bakeries that have not fared well.

The Sweetheart Bakery will be back in operation on March 4 and heading back to the farmers' markets it used to frequent.

"For the people of Christchurch, it would be great to celebrate and continue with habits," said English.

"It would be great if people could support small businesses and go to markets as usual."

Sam Cowdy, in charge of commercial leasings at Canterbury's Cowdy & Company, says there has been a "frenzy" of people trying to find commercial workspaces following last week's earthquake.

"There is still some stuff out there but tenants might just have to go further out [of the city] than they'd like."

He says that as many properties are within the cordoned area, many tenants still do not know whether they are in a position to end their lease. As contracts may vary, he says the advice of a solicitor may be beneficial.

He also encourages anyone with available property to contact a leasing agent, as finding workspace will help with the recovery from the earthquake.

"The biggest thing we need is more listings," Cowdy says.

Janice Cowdy, in charge of residential property rentals at Cowdy & Company, says business is "really difficult, because there was such a shortage of properties before the earthquake".

She says a lot of tenants are leaving their rental homes because they are frightened, but they will have a difficult time finding an unoccupied home.

"We've got such a huge list of well-qualified people looking for properties right across the whole socio-economic board.

"My best advice is if they've got a rental that is in good order, they should stay put.

"Other people [without properties] should just keep pestering property agents."

Vodafone's First Mobile retail stores in Riccarton, Hornby, Northlands Mall and the Airport re-opened on Wednesday. No further openings are currently planned.

Several smaller mobile service centres have been sent to Christchurch today, while the Optimus Prime truck, which houses a fully operational retail store, is being kept at Vodafone's Homebase in Shirley.

The company says it has spent several millions of dollars on communications infrastructure for the city - including an order from Christchurch company Spunlite for 10 new cell masts. Additional street cabinets have been ordered from Christchurch's Eaton, and five cell sites on wheels (COWs) are being built in Auckland and Napier over the next five weeks.

Richard Winter, director of Italian restaurant chain Spagalimis, says restaurant staff can't access the main server and call centre set up in order to take orders and make deliveries, both of which are in the flagship store in Victoria St, which is inside the cordon.

Two of its five stores in Christchurch are closed - those in New Brighton and Victoria St.

He said it was "a bit tough without a call centre" to get the other stores fully operational again.

However, the Christchurch Employers' Chamber of Commerce has been really good, said Winter.

Spagalimis has registered with the chamber of commerce and they have been told they can get in at some stage to get that equipment.

"Hopefully in the next 48 hours. It's important to get the business ticking over again."

The main restaurant area in Victoria St "a shambles" and he has "never seen anything like it".

Winter was allowed in briefly following the quake to gain important information to contact more than 50 staff the stores employ.

The store had just received 39 cases of wine, which were to be distributed around the other stores, all of which are now gone.

"I can understand why we're not allowed in, but there's food left out."

When the quake struck, they were in the middle of lunch. There are half cooked pizzas and they want to get in and start to clean that up.

For Winter and his team, it is the little things that keep coming up. They are starting to run short on pizza boxes because they can't get in to where they are stored.

But for the most part, Spagalimis is "pretty on track" and they are looking on the bright side. "We need to rebuild the centre of Christchurch and get it back up and running. We're lucky in a way, we can completely rebuild. It may suit us better in a modern world," said Winter.

Doug Chapman is a co-owner of Bealey Pharmacy in St Albans, which was "totalled" in last week's quake.

He has been with the pharmacy since 1986, but says he isn't currently sure of its future.

"The first priority is the building", he says. "Without that there's nothing."

The building is rented so whether it is rebuilt is up to the landlord. Moving to a new location isn't a good option, he says. "Relocating a pharmacy is difficult because you're very reliant on the local community and doctors.

"You can move a certain distance without losing the community, but generally we're stuck to the immediate location."
In terms of the large amount of lost stock, Chapman says his insurance company has been "really good, helpful as far as they can".
"This particular site was knocked over in first earthquake [in September], so we've been in fairly good touch with insurance company."

Gregory Head, General Manager at Triton Security, says his company has been devoting resources "to life as opposed to property - where we can."

Head says the company has been looking after the Canterbury District Health Board and is making sure that resources are focused on their requirements.

He says he expects there will be some businesses that require a static guard once the cordon is lifted on the central city.

"Electricity could be an issue with burglar alarms - I know the police are taking all reasonable steps to make sure businesses are secured.

"[The lifting of the cordon] won't just be a free-for-all, it will be on a planned basis.

Business owners will need to advise security companies of their requirements, after consultation with the police.

The cordons are currently being maintained by the New Zealand Police with the help of some Australian police officers and the New Zealand Army.

Glenn Michael owns both the Club Bazaar pizzeria and the Headless Mexican restaurant in Sumner and although he has heard on the grapevine that running water is two or three weeks away "I'm working on five or six weeks," so he is grateful for the government subsidy that will cover staff wages.

"Once we get water we'll have the business up and running and we'll slide as many staff back in as we can."

Read more about Sumner businesses trying to rebuild here.

Alison and John Goodfellow own and run the Thistle Guest House Bed and Breakfast at Church Corner.

Alison says they are "up and running" and have been "very lucky".

Post-quake they are very busy accommodating people from the other side of town who need a break.

They also have people from World Vision and the Red Cross staying with them.

Alison says they have had a lot of forward booking in the last week and say they are "pretty sorted".

Robbie Hunt of Mod's Hair Paris in Merivale says the business, which has around 20 employees, was affected minimally.

"We lost a lot of stock and some instruments that we use."

The salon had no water for a week and re-opened on Wednesday, seven days after the earthquake.

"Our major concern is supplies - at the moment the courier companies are still restricted to emergency deliveries only. We totally understand that we are not a high priority when emergency services are needed and traffic needs to stay off the roads, so we're supportive of that.

He says the business is still in the process of getting through the insurance red-tape, and thinks it would help if some insurance companies and banks were more proactive in contacting their clients.

"We know that some providers have been in touch with some businesses.

"It's obvious that the businesses in Christchurch are in need of help. It shouldn't take us phoning them to let them know that there has been an earthquake."

Hunt says the salon has contacted clients who had appointments for the week that they were closed, but many are now out of town. Nonetheless he says they are "incredibly busy", and grateful to be open and to be able to serve the community.

Derek Manning, director of Bright Sparks Promotional Marketing in Christchurch says his major concern is maintaining the company's level of output.

He says a lot of his business comes from Auckland and other towns around the country, and he fears that some may be reluctant to use services from companies based in Christchurch.

"Just because we're in Christchurch, our business opportunities haven't diminished," he says.

"From an operational point of view, we can still provide the services we've always provided."

Bright Sparks were looking for a temporary office space within two days of the earthquake, and had relocated within a week.

"We're lucky because we are internet-based - our servers are in Auckland and overseas, so from that point of view we can plug in anywhere and operate."

Manning says his team were able to get limited access to the office in Cashel St to retrieve valuable equipment after the quake, under watch from the police and soldiers.

He says he has heard of businesses around the country redirecting or outsourcing short-term work to Christchurch companies, and says this will be very useful in helping the city to get back up and running after the earthquake.

Maarten Loeffen, European Butcher at Traiteur of Merivale says he is very lucky that he only lost a lot of stock.

He says on Tuesday evening he realised that as there was no power, the raw meats would soon go off.

"We got all the uncooked food cooked up in a hurry and gave it to St Johns, who distributed it to other people. On Wednesday night our power came back on, and we were fortunate to have farming friends who brought water in."

"We got up and running on Thursday, and were the first business on Papanui Road to open again. We're in a very good position because people buy takeaway meals from us to give to people who don't have kitchens.

He says each customer has a story to tell, which makes purchases take longer but is helping to strengthen relationships in the community.

"We're giving out sausages from 11 to 3 with a barbecue open on the road. People don't need to pay. It's a privilege to be able to do those things."

Robert Clark of 306 on Riccarton Motel says they can't even tell there has been a quake in the Riccarton area.

He wonders, "What happened? Is this Christchurch?

"We got the best end of the stick."

The motel has taken in anyone who is involved from engineers checking buildings and bridges to civil defence and the news media.

"There's a lot of fabulous people out there," he says.

Robert has had offers from motels in Rotorua of free accommodation for people who want to get out of Christchurch, but as far as he is aware, nobody has taken any of the offers.

He says, "A few days away would be fantastic."

Craig Joynt, Exhibit Group says the company's Stevens St building is awaiting a verdict from inspectors.

"A massive cleaning up and repair job and we might be okay. We are sending all the showroom displays to Auckland for a service and refurbishment to repair the damage. We will have them ready to go as soon as we get the OK to return. Sue and her family are all okay and she is available to clients. If you are making your event marketing decisions from other centres, we have teams from Auckland and Wellington to help. Our thoughts are with those who have been less fortunate."

Richard O'Brien, who runs online company Biz Buy Sell that advertises businesses for sale, said earlier this week he wasn't going to let the earthquake stop him from running his business.

O'Brien said his office in Middleton, and his home in Cashmere, suffered minimal damage compared with others.

He said his business was mainly focused on areas outside Christchurch and therefore not too badly affected by the first earthquake on September 4, but he expected there would be a slight slump this time around.

O'Brien's office is in an industrial area outside of central Christchurch that he says was not too badly damaged by the earthquake.

"Location- wise it's better, we [the buildings] aren't as high or as old as some in the city - they had the worst of it."

Elliot Duston, Luxon Advertising says the company's offices have been in the CBD "for most of its 30-year history and more recently in Cashel Mall, which is now almost completely devastated, and the scene of a number of tragic deaths."

"We ran out into the street on Tuesday to help people trapped by falling masonry and did whatever we could-in true Kiwi fashion."

"Now, with the amazing help of clients, friends and family, we are in 90 per cent working order and ready to start to get back some sense of routine; to progress work for the clients unaffected by the earthquake and continue to do what we can for those still reeling from the aftermath, privately and in their businesses."

A special thank you to all the agency and media contacts who have contacted us to check on our well-being."


Tania Biddles, Q Brand: "Our office was located right in the centre of the city, and although the building is still standing, our offices are uninhabitable at the moment. All our staff got out safely though, and we are just trying to set all our staff up from home and hope to start operating again mid week."

Scott Shore, Adgraphix: "Power and water is back on, we are ready to go ... The more printing and signage work we can secure down here, the better it is for our customers, our suppliers, us and ultimately our city."

Greg Bramwell, owner of Photo and Video International in Merivale Mall, says his store is extremely lucky to be one of the few camera stores that is trading in the Christchurch area.

"Courier deliveries are starting to come in and the government is looking after us - I'd find it very difficult to complain."

He says the mall is still officially closed due to lack of toilet facilities, but officials have let stores open on their own judgement.

"The building is safe but you have to have toilets before they can open the mall."

The toilets and mall are expected to be open on Monday, March 7.


Neil Cameron, Harvey Cameron: "We opened yesterday [28 February] with almost full staff and water was on when I arrived so we have all services. Very very lucky. The building has suffered no damage other than some cracks in some gib. We have a lot of national clients and for them it is business as usual and very important that we maintain our services and the crew here are doing an amazing job in the circumstances. Nearly 40 ad and digital teams working hard, some are working remotely from home and other offices. We have 50 accounts staff spread all over the city. Some of the after shocks are very interesting! As regards other operations, most are inside the cordon and cannot access their offices."

Photonewzealand:"Firstly, thank you for the kind words of support we have received in the last week. There have been hundreds of messages expressing kind thoughts and offers of assistance and they have made a huge difference to our team, each of whom are currently dealing with their own personal circumstances. Our thoughts remain with those families who have lost loved ones. Our team remain safe and with their families. They are sorting out the damage to their homes and looking after their children, families, friends and neighbours. Although our office is still closed, our systems are all up and running.

Trenzeater: "The Team at TRENZSEATER would like to firstly extend our sincere thoughts and sympathy to all those fellow Cantabrians who have been affected by the Christchurch Earthquake on Feb 22nd, and to those who have lost work colleagues, close friends and loved ones. We apologise for any inconvenience we may have caused being closed, we have little damage to the store but are awaiting some ceiling tiles to arrive before we are open for business as usual.

Shaun Barry, Roadside Attractions: "We used to love the fact that we could all walk/ride to work from our homes in Sumner and Redcliffs to our lovely Sumner office. Those days will hopefully come again but not for a little while. Up on Clifton Hill behind Sumner, Bill's house sounds like it is slowly falling apart around him with every aftershock.

Without power and water, like the captain of the Titanic going down with his doomed boat, he won't leave. His lifeboat is a Maui campervan he and his partner are sleeping in on the lawn and hoping their insurance company will stump up for it at $300/day. He's a huge Celine Dion fan and I daresay he'll have her Titanic song "My Heart Will Go On" amped up out across the empty neighbourhood just for a laugh. We are definitely back in business, although our phone line is gone.

John Boyle, Rainbow Print: "All our staff are safe and well. We are back operating and the printing presses are running through the night to help many local and national business getting information to many who are without power. We are here to help if anyone needs anything printed."

Harshad Patel of Patel's Dairy in Waltham, which employs 4 people, says his business has not been too badly affected by the earthquake.

"We had a little [liquefaction] in the kitchen, but we cleaned it up."

He says there is also still some dust in the shop.

Patel says supplies are now being delivered and he has everything he needs to be able to continue business as usual. He was grateful to have deliveries of essentials like bread and milk quickly after the earthquake to provide to the community.


Niven Boyle, The Media Dept: "Greetings from the remains of The Media Dept. Appreciate you advising that Stacey and I are safe and well and trucking on. Our building at Ground Zero was actually a damn good place to be.

Whilst it may be very old, the complete refurbishment two years ago has meant it is as strong a place as any and stood up well enough for me to (stupidly?) race back in and get mobiles and the laptop! But the devastation in our area at High/Lichfield/Manchester is massive and unfortunately a lot of people will have perished around us. We have had a number of wonderfully kind offers of assistance from up north and sincerely appreciate these. We're holding up well but much of the worst news is clearly yet to come."

Robin McDonnell, Phantom Billstickers: "All our staff in Christchurch are okay. Our Sydenham office is without power, water, phone and broadband. We're working off kitchen tables at present. Our thoughts are with those who have lost love ones in these difficult times."

Jon Drumm and Simon Apperley, Big Picture, Smartmove and Social Ted Media: "We have reopened and are working from temporary offices in Merivale with thanks to the team at Harvey Cameron and E2 Digital. Some of our staff are working from home choosing to remain close to family. All emails, phone numbers etc remain the same. Thank you for all the kind emails of support."

Rachel Alexander, Alexanders internet Marketing: "I was in the Arts Centre having lunch at Annies, when the plates and glasses started crashing to the floor. When I ventured out from under the table, there was a large white cloud outside where a large part of the Arts Centre had collapsed in a pile of rubble ceiling high. If there was anyone there, they wouldn't have stood a chance.

Luckily our office, in Fendalton on the northwest side of town, fared a little better. One of two surviving chimneys fell through the room and created a leak. A local roofing firm came to the rescue (it was raining!). Other than a mess of archive CDs everywhere and broken crockery, we were let off lightly and able to operate fully again by Friday. However, it's hard to pretend to be normal when you know outside things are far from normal.

Many CBD businesses are already relocating, operating out of the owners' homes. Our homes, formerly precious sanctuaries, seem like mere brooches on life. The spirit down here is amazing. People are laughing as well as crying. Christchurch will resurrect itself again. Please support us as we grieve for our friends, family and heritage, and face up to the enormous reality that confronts us."


Karen Brown, hairyLemon: hairyLemon web solutions is up and running at 75 per cent capacity from the homes of staff around the city, but has secured new premises in Hornby which we are moving into from Wednesday 2 March. Our staff are all safe, having escaped from the 4th floor of our building in the CBD. Unfortunately the building has been red-stickered, so we won't be returning.

We have managed to retrieve all client data off our servers though, and all of our client websites hosted via Digiweb are operational. We are keen to get stuck in to project work and get the company up and running again for our staff and our clients. hairyLemon's tech subsidiary, The IT Team, is also fully operational, offering tech services to businesses around the city needing to set up with computer systems, email, phones etc.

Kaye Johnston, Beck and Caul: "Beck and Caul are pleased to advise that all staff and family are safe. Our hearts go out to all those that have lost loved ones. We are very fortunate to be operating as normal from our slightly further damaged building at 115 Sherborne St and will be moving to new premises at 12 Moorhouse Ave, opposite Hagley Park, on 4 April. Beck and Caul are still offering a range of communication services including design, media, marketing, website, e-newsletters, advertising and promotion, and we are happy to assist any business to get up and running in these trying times."

Diederik van Heyningen, Lightworkx: "I am pleased to report that all staff and immediate family and friends are safe and well. Massive thanks to everyone who has sent well wishing messages and offers of support. Overwhelming and very emotional at times! To all our local clients: We are here to help with anything, from photography to clearing bricks and liquifaction to post production, please let us know if and how you need help. To all our national and international clients: Words cannot express how much your messages of support mean to all of us right now, thank you!

We are open for business! I 'think' I am pleased to report that the studio, although a big mess, has been 'L1 Green stickered' as has the entire complex here in the CBD where our studio is based. This means when the CBD Cordon recedes over the next few days, we will be open for business as usual.

Recover Canterbury is showing links for business to business support.

StopPress is running an "Open for Business" directory - for marketing and media comapnies in the Christchurch area.

For IT business based in Christchurch a website has been set up for requests and offers of help
You are able to sign in using Facebook and Twitter IDs.

Offers of help for businesses in Christchurch are here

Requests of help from businesses in Christchurch are here

There is also a section, for after the initial recovery, where people can organise new projects to be started in Christchurch to try and help build the IT industry again in the city.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce has advice for businesses within the CBD cordon and on financial assistance to get back up running again.

A special website -nzbizhelp.co.nz has been set up for all businesses for requests of help or offers of help.
You can also follow them on Facebook and twitter.
You can sign up from the home page or more specifically:

A list of businesses that are requesting help is here.

A list of businesses offering help is here.

Businesses in the Selwyn district may be able to apply for assistance from the Government because of the quake.

Those that have lost substantial work because of the quake are eligible under the Government's Earthquake Employment Support Package.

This package will give subsidies for six weeks to businesses to help retain their workers.

Selwyn district is south-east of Christchurch beginning from Templeton out to Rakaia Huts and up through Castle Hill and Arthur's Pass, it includes Darfield.

Businesses can apply for assistance through WINZ.

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