By Sharon Brettkelly of RNZ

One of Auckland's famous shopping strips is showing the signs of stress with sale and for lease signs filling many shop windows.

The normally vibrant, bustling stretch of Dominion Rd is lined with hundreds of small businesses.

But the owners say they are losing thousands of dollars a week under lockdown and many won't reopen.

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"I don't think a lot of them will bother," said Colin Wigg, owner of Col's Cobble Shoppe. "I don't think the turnover for them and myself will be there for at least till Christmas."

Colin Wigg has worked here for 45 years, fixing boots, bags and belts. Photo / RNZ
Colin Wigg has worked here for 45 years, fixing boots, bags and belts. Photo / RNZ

For 45 years Wigg has worked here fixing boots, bags and belts.

He's enjoying the enforced time away from his sole trader business that is tucked between van and truck hire company Metropolitan Rentals and a couple of empty shops with for lease signs.

"It's actually quite nice to not have to go to work. I've quite enjoyed the last two weeks. The money ran out last week, that's also a problem but I've got a bit of savings to go on."

The 200-odd businesses along this stretch from View Rd to Balmoral Rd are an eclectic mix of Chinese restaurants, cafes, banks, antique shops, charity stores and dairies.


The manager of Dominion Rd Business Association Gary Holmes calls the strip Auckland's world within a street.

"We've got so much diversity and variety in terms of ethnicity and ethnic representation and the different businesses along the road," he said.

"Their owners put a lot of time, effort, money and resources into building up a business… and then to suddenly have that wiped out by something that's completely out of their control is heartbreaking."

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Michelle and Ali Arsan own Tasca tapas restaurant. They're working out how to keep afloat - to pay rent and other bills without an income - not just for the period of lockdown but for the next six months.

"Its not just what's happening now, its what's going to unfold and what's the recovery time and how deep you can go down before you can recover," Arsan said.

"Its going to be very hard times in front of us. We still want to survive, we've had this business for 13 years almost, we have a responsibility to our employees and this is our baby, we started from scratch and we don't want to lose our business," Arsan said.

Mr Hao had only just opened before the lockdown. Photo / RNZ
Mr Hao had only just opened before the lockdown. Photo / RNZ

The owner of Hao's Chinese restaurant, Paul Wong, only just opened before lockdown.

But just as he shut down here, his restaurants in Shanghai reopened.

"We're maybe 30, 40 per cent down on business [in Shanghai] but during this stage we weren't forced to shut, we were actually forced to open because we're in big shopping malls there. There was no one around, it was literally a ghost town," he said.

He believes customers in New Zealand will be more confident about returning to restaurants because of the way the crisis has been handled.

Further south, past Farro, a few dairies, cafes and restaurants, a Tongan Methodist church, a building site with a giant crane, and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra headquarters is Chris Hammonds' business Mondo Travel.

The shop front displays colourful posters of a giant cruise ship, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and London's Tower Bridge.

Mondo Travel is not taking any bookings, but still busy cancelling trips for customers. Photo / RNZ
Mondo Travel is not taking any bookings, but still busy cancelling trips for customers. Photo / RNZ

But Hammonds is not taking any bookings, he's busy cancelling trips for customers.

"Today, just to be alive is costing me about $1000 a day after the subsidy on salaries and rent and so on.

"So after 12 weeks that's $60,000. There's not a lot of small businesses that have got equity to sustain themselves. I'm fortunate that I do have, but the longer this thing goes on the harder it's going to be to survive," he said.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Some businesses will be able to start again and turn the tap on, others will take longer but some won't come back, he said.

"There's a lot of empty buildings along the strip now and there's going to be a lot more, I suspect."

Laying off staff is the most difficult and stressful part, he said.

Hammonds, who chairs the Dominion Rd Business Association, said the group is working on support for the 200 business owners including a promotion urging residents to back their local shops and restaurants.

-RNZ