Historic Hawke's Bay: Hannahs fills big Napier boots

Hannahs has for decades been New Zealand's most recognisable shoe store. Its founder, Robert Hannah, opened his first boot store in 1868 on the West Coast, before moving to Wellington in 1874 to open the first of his R Hannah & Co boot stores.

Being entrepreneurial, it was not long until other R Hannah & Co stores spread around New Zealand, including the Napier store (pictured) in 1883, in Hastings St.

When the Napier stored opened, it was announced that it had the largest selection of boots and shoes ever seen in the district.

Also, the advert stated: "Every pair quite fresh, not a single pair of old, flown-blown, shop-worn goods in the lot; but we venture to think the prices we quote for fresh goods are considerably less than the prices at present being asked by some traders for some very antediluvian (old-fashioned) stuff."

Around 1897, Robert's brother, William, took over the Napier and Hastings stores and, by 1931, had erected a three-storey building in Hastings St. But the earthquake and fires on February 3, 1931 would destroy the building, with William losing all his stock.

Both of his Hastings stores were also lost to the earthquake, with three deaths in the Heretaunga St East store.

Robert Hannah died in 1930, but his son, Tim, sent the family chauffeur-driven car to Hawke's Bay to take William and his family to Wellington.

While in Wellington, William slept in a tent on the lawn at Antrim House, not trusting being inside a building. A few days later, he decided he may as well be sleeping in a tent in Hawke's Bay and returned to begin the arduous process of rebuilding the businesses.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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