The Old Packhouse Market has become a popular hub for the community and an attraction for out-of-towners. Reporter Jenny Ling talks to owner Judy Hyland on the eve of the market's six-year anniversary.
When Judy and Warrick Hyland bought an old timber workshop and fruit packing shed in the Far North eight years ago, little did they know they'd end up transforming the place into a thriving community asset.
The couple had initially intended the Kerikeri Rd property as a place for Warrick to continue his work creating bespoke furniture, joinery and cabinetry.
But it wasn't long before Judy had grander plans.
She'd been beavering away at the Kerikeri Business Association helping boost its membership when the lightbulb moment came.
"I said to Warrick, the town needs a better market.
"Through the business association I knew there were a lot of people who wanted to sell their products.
"Warrick knew I always wanted a market. I remember him saying to me 'if you want a market darling, I'll build you one'. And he did."
• Go Local! Feature: Northland businesses fear end of wage subsidy scheme
• Go Local! Generous landlord offers free use of vacant lot for Kerikeri businesses
• Go Local! Opinion: Northland business owners show optimism that should be celebrated
• Go Local! Hundreds of Northland businesses launch during Covid-19 environment
The Old Packhouse Market in Kerikeri is now one of the biggest weekly social events in town, drawing bustling crowds eager to sample the best of what the region has to offer.
Northland-grown produce, Northland-made products, Northland artisans, arts and crafts - move over Matakana, there's a new kid on the block.
Judy reckons her Kerikeri creation is even better than the much raved-about version north of Auckland.
For foodies, it's sure put Northland on the map.
Disclaimer: I have eaten a lot of food at the Packhouse Market.
The pies are glorious, the baguettes and ciabatta genuine, and there are dainty cakes, pain au chocolat and almond croissants not found in most of the Far North's tradie-focused bakeries.
The amount of fresh local produce is dizzying: meat and fish, cheese, free-range eggs, honey, olive oil and plenty of fruit and vegetables straight from the growers.
There's a diverse array of cooked meals and snacks: Malaysian, Thai, German and American, along with the legendary Mrs Miller's mussel fritters and hangi from Hangi Bros.
Culinary delights aside, since the Hylands opened the Saturday market in October 2014 it's become a hub for the community and a popular visitor attraction.
Judy never intended it as an authentic farmers' market.
Instead she wanted it to be a "proper representation" of Northland growers and artisans, and to give the public a choice.
"I just like to see people getting together and having fun," Judy said.
"I really enjoy having our Packhouse Market family and creating that window where people can come together and be happy."
FOR A pair of former Aucklanders, the Hylands sure are invested in the North.
Before they moved here in 2005, they were running a native timber giftware business in Karaka, a small rural area south of Auckland.
But Warrick's dad Lindsay lured them north with "promises of a better life in Kerikeri".
Initially Warrick helped his dad on his numerous dairy farms while Judy worked at the Great Northern Traders – now The Merchants of Kerikeri – and Unichem Pharmacy.
She also became involved in the Kerikeri Business Association, initially as a volunteer and then as its president of three years, helping to boost membership and organise events.
Judy got the first Kerikeri Half Marathon street party off the ground and ran the February Ocean and Orchard wine and food festival for five years.
Warrick and Lindsay purchased the Packhouse Market site in 2012, and turned it into Hylands Ancient Kauri, producing bespoke native timber furniture and giftware.
The business still operates behind the scenes.
After the success of the Saturday market, Judy opened it on Sundays, which features an eclectic mix of upcycled fashion, retro and vintage gear, arts, crafts and natural healing.
There are also extra night markets in summer in the lead-up to Christmas.
Then "the Packhouse family" put their heads together and came up with a total revamp and expansion of the interior cafe led by Warrick and operations manager Neil Brazier.
The plans were already in the pipeline, but the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown cemented their ideas, which included seating for 60 people, extra leather couches and fireplaces, and an inspired selection of French-style breads, cakes and pastries.
The refurbished cafe opened on July 2.
"Over lockdown Warrick and I realised we really did need to move forward and change things," Judy said.
"It gave us that time to get some energy back and recoup and make a plan.
"Warrick is the business man, I'm more of the ideas person.
"It was really Warrick and Neil who said to me we need to move the stallholders out of here and this needs to be more of a defined cafe.
"All these people coming through on a Saturday and Sunday, they just didn't see it properly because of all the stalls.
"We had to keep moving everything around on weekends."
The market now draws crowds of around 2000 people on a busy Saturday and provides an income for many Northlanders.
Up to 100 stallholders sell their wares, and the cafe and bakery employ 23 people, including students.
Further plans to expand are under way - a wedding venue with function rooms, another commercial kitchen and alfresco seating are hoped to be complete in 18 months to two years.
There will soon be a gallery, and more night markets to showcase Northland's street food vendors start monthly from October 29.
Not bad for something that began as a once-a-week event.
"I didn't think it would be anything like this," Judy said.
"We thought one little cafe with one coffee machine would be heaps.
"But there are a lot of talented people coming here and selling their products, so we couldn't have a market without them.
"We're both really proud of what we've done. We work well as a team."
The Kerikeri Rd property was originally owned by Rod MacDiarmid who bought the land during World War II.
Rod and his wife Flo moved to Kerikeri in 1949 and grew navel oranges, kiwifruit and tamarillos.
In the 1970s he built the packhouse and coolstore, which was used as a commercial packhouse for other local growers.
By the 1990s he'd passed it onto his daughter and son-in-law and it became a kauri mill, cabinetry factory and retail outlet.