Almost a quarter of a century of fashion retailing in Te Puke will shortly come to an end.
Lynette's is closing down as owner Lynette Lochhead has decided to retire - but the store is trading for now under alert level restrictions.

Under current rules Lynette is taking clothes on approval to her VIP customers but hopes, under alert level 2, to soon be able to welcome customers into the shop.

While Lynette's has a website, it is to showcase stock rather than allow people to buy online.

''I'm not an online person,'' she says, ''I want to dress people personally.''

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Lynette opened Lynette's in Te Puke 24 years ago, but has a long history in fashion.

She was 15 when she started working in fashion. She owned her first shop in Hastings at 17, opening a second Hastings store when she was 22.

''In those days ... the fabrics had no stretch in them. They looked fantastic, but you were extremely uncomfortable, but because you looked good, you didn't worry.''

She says with more modern fabrics - and stretch fabrics - clothes are much more comfortable, even when they are inspired by the past.

''The fashions [today] are really mimicking what we had then, just toned down a bit. Our bell bottoms then were huge. We call them flares now and they are nothing compared to what we used to wear.''

At the time she owned shops in Hastings, Hawke's Bay was a hotbed of style.

''In Hastings everyone dressed for the big shows like the A&P show. No matter how cold it was, you forced yourself into a beautiful sleeveless summer dress.

''In Hawke's Bay everything was very formal. You'd always be dressed up - you'd never go to town casual.''

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When she moved to the Bay of Plenty she found things were very different.

''Things were much more casual up here - you could go to town in shorts and a t-shirt.''
Lynette wasn't averse to challenging the order of things.

''I started Saturday trading and had protesters outside my shops. There were a lot of men only clubs in Hastings - so I started a ladies-only club at a local hotel.''

She began holding fashion parades - something she continued and became well known for in the Bay of Plenty.

Recently she has been organising up to 18 a year and believes she would have run well over 400 parades in the Bay of Plenty.

She has donated over $46,000 worth of clothes and shoes to the Christchurch city mission since the earthquake.

Lynette and husband Jack moved to the Kaimai Ranges in the 1980s, to Paengaroa in 1991 and in 1996 she opened the Te Puke store.

''When I opened there was no roundabout outside and cars could just park outside - I had the sewing shop on one side and a cafe on the other and it was just a very busy, thriving service town. It was so good that within a year and a half I opened a shop in Pāpāmoa Plaza.

''For three years it had no roof on it. I was there for six years. We held huge fashion parades in the courtyard with crowds of up to 500. We brought down a modelling agency from Auckland to find the Bay of Plenty's next top model.''

Lynette held the Lynette's wearable art competition at Te Puke Intermediate School for five years and was the Kiwifruit Festival co-ordinator from 2000-2002.

Her life and customers' demands meant the shop has changed and evolved over the years.

''Having [daughter] Laura after three boys, I realised there was nothing for girls in town so I started selling girls' wear and it was a three generation fashion store. Then as Laura grew I dropped the kids' wear and got into teenage wear.''

At various times she has also carried large stocks of nightwear, lingerie and still sells shoes.

''Shoes are a massive part of our business now - but to make room for those, the swimwear had to go. But you have to adapt.''

Singing and athletics played a big part in Lynette's life, as did teaching gymnastics at the Hastings YMCA before meeting Jack, a dry stock farmer, at badminton. They went on to become doubles champions.

While raising her family and working on the orchard in the Kaimai Ranges, Lynette also taught singing, gymnastics and athletics at Kaimai School as a volunteer for eight years, working at a restaurant in Tauranga in the evenings.

The move to Paengaroa coincided with Lynette re-igniting her interest in athletics.

''Jack and I were both starters at the Te Puke Athletics Club. We helped to run Te Puke Harriers and Jack and I helped set up a Te Puke senior athletics club. I became a New Zealand veteran champion in 100m, 200m, 400m and triple jump.''

Lynette was also awarded a BOP suffragette award for women's sport in 1993. She then joined Jack as a national level starter for Athletics NZ.

Lynette went on to work as a volunteer at Paengaroa school, teaching singing and athletics for six years, while they ran a kiwifruit orchard and flora culture business.

When she opened the Te Puke shop, Lynette gave up running but trained senior Te Puke rugby, football and netball teams for speed and stretches.

While running ahead of the footballers at one training session, they all broke out into song - singing ''We want our Molenberg'', while her son, Michael, relieved her of her duties with the Eastern Districts rugby team he was coaching as she was taking too long with her player warm-up.

In retirement, Lynette and Jack hope, eventually, be able to take the longer holidays owning a shop prevents.