The new owners of one of Northland's biggest — and longest-surviving — secondhand stores plan to turn part of the building into affordable premises for up-and-coming businesses.

Great Northern Traders, on the corner of Cobham Rd and Mill Lane in Kerikeri, was sold on November 16 to a consortium made up of Bay of Islands power couple Richard and Vanessa Owen and recent arrivals in Kerikeri Terry and Fiona Clarke (from Perth) and Nigel and Felicity Wooding (Auckland).

The building is still owned by Gary Collins who started the store 43 years ago and has leased it out for the past 42.

Vanessa Owen said they had taken out an 18-year lease.

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''It's long but we need it. We have big plans and we're investing massively.''

Those plans included reducing the space occupied by the second-hand store to half the building. The other half, called Merchants of Kerikeri, was being divided into nine separate shops which would be rented out to new and interesting businesses.

The rents would be affordable and the terms flexible, with one-month rolling leases giving young entrepreneurs a chance to get new ventures off the ground.

Owen said when she first moved to Kerikeri 24 years ago the main street was full of interesting, even quirky, shops.

''I've seen that change over the years. I think young people or new businesses coming into town don't have a show, because leases are restrictive and rents are really high,'' she said.

''This will give people a chance to explore their business in a really dynamic environment and buck the trend that everything's online these days. People still want to touch and feel, and interact with the owners.''

The new owners of Great Northern Traders say the second-hand store will remain, alongside the new stores. Photo / Peter de Graaf
The new owners of Great Northern Traders say the second-hand store will remain, alongside the new stores. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The first shop opened last Friday; the ninth is due to open on December 15. All would be individually lockable so the merchants could set their own hours.

They would include two art galleries (by Kerikeri artists and identities Monika Welch and Keri Molloy), a barber, a ''micro-dairy'' and stores selling French antiques, restored and chalk-painted furniture, organic pet food, carpet and second-hand baby buggies.

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''We've been snowed under. There's already a waiting list,'' Owen said.

Merchants would be able to get advice on branding, marketing and web design if they wanted it.

Though a fashion chain and a top-end linen shop were also moving in, they had been asked to stock end-of-line items to keep with the ethos of affordability.

''We're trying to keep honest. It is a second-hand store after all,'' she said.

While the new Great Northern Traders would be smaller it would still sell ''really good junk'', demolition materials and recycled goods, along with some new features such as a hangi corner with sacks and other essentials.

''The main thing people have been saying is, 'Please don't change it, we love coming here to hunt through the junk'.''

Owen said the new venture fitted her philosophy that it was possible to make a good living and give back to the community.

The new venture, Merchants of Kerikeri, aims to make business premises affordable.
The new venture, Merchants of Kerikeri, aims to make business premises affordable.

As well as offering low-cost premises for new businesses, last week they held a three-day free sale, giving away thousands of dollars worth of stock rather then see it end up in landfill.

''Most of all I want people to make money and have fun.''

The Merchants of Kerikeri will be open 8.30am-5.30pm weekdays and 10am-4pm Saturdays and Sundays.