In the 1920s, Kaitaia and Awanu were the 'twin cities' of North Auckland. There was a track south over the Mangamukas – much like today – but all transport came via the Awanui River. Coastal traders like the Apanui brought supplies and people to the area.
One of these arrivals was David Archibald, Snr. He was a shortish, rotund man with erect stature and a heavy Glaswegian accent, deeply religious and a strong will to succeed.
He had migrated with his wife Lilian and young family to Auckland from Talcross, a Glasgow slum area, to escape poverty and a heavy-drinking family. In Auckland his church connections included the founder s of the Farmers' Trading Company, Robert Laidlaw, whose slogan was 'Laidlaw Leeds others follow."
David ran a successful bakery in Dominion Rd, so successful that he was soon able to buy a farm in present day Botany.
"My father knew as much about farming as the leg of that table," second son John said, and the venture was not a success. A short time later they had to walk off the farm, John remembering sneaking back to repossess his pet ducks from the liquidators.
At this time gum digging was still a viable industry in the North. World War I veterans were allotted 50-acre settlement farms, and the future for Kaitaia looked bright. David, however, was reduced to working as a Burns Philp travelling salesman, taking the trading boat to Awanui, then travelling back to Auckland by horse and cart, taking orders on the way.
Upon arriving in Awanui he would get a horse and cart and travel to Kaitaia, a four-hour ride, often getting stuck, weaving in and out of five different tracks through the mud and manuka of the present day Awanui Straight.
One Sunday he found himself in Kaitaia, and, after church, he struck up a friendship with the Kaitaia BNZ manager. This friendship proved so strong that when the bank manager suggested David buy a local store, he said, "I can no buy a business, I am an adjudged bankrupt." It was his big break though. The bank manager used his own personal funds to buy the trading business for David until his bankruptcy ended. Thus D Archibald and Sons was born.
This first business, where the present day Bells Produce is, in North Rd, was a general store, with a bakery and bulk supplies. Lily, Jean (21), David Jnr (20) and John (16) were enlisted to work hard in the business, and it was very successful. David Junior worked in the bakery, and John, who loved transport even then, was the delivery boy with his horse and wagon.
The business was so successful that after four years David and Lily were able to take five of their six children back to Scotland for a 'show and tell.' John stayed behind to manage the business.
The 1930s brought expansion to the store, with a drapery division, grocery store, hardware etc., and the advent of selling cars in Kaitaia.
In the Great Depression of the 1930s David, always a lateral thinker, took another big risk. Convinced that "the bank hath no heart," he saw what happened when customers could not pay for their cars etc. - big companies, such as Ford, repossessed them. He saw these cars rusting away in storage, and remembered his own bankruptcy.
His solution was to let the customers reduce payments but retain their vehicles. Thus the finance arm of Archibalds was born.
He was always keen to promote his business, and sought to combine this with his philanthropic ventures. He donated hymn books to the Ōruru Church, but stamped them with his motto – We Lead Others Follow. This did not go down well with the pastor, and there was an altercation. David's solution? Start his own church, donating the land for the Gospel Hall at the corner of Grigg St and North Road (Grigg's Corner).
He also introduced innovative marketing ideas, such as coronation medallion gifts to customers, imported from England, and branched out into home appliances and cars. But he was not immune to some disastrous marketing ventures.
In 1997, 77 years after the family arrived in Kaitaia, 80-year-old Betty Dean, from Awanui, bought a car from Archibalds. This was no easy thing for her to do. One Christmas, when she was 12, D Archibald & Sons sent many customers boxes of chocolates in their Christmas orders. Her family missed out.
She and her family, her future husband and their children, never shopped with Archibalds from that Christmas until the day, three generations later, when she bought a car from young Brian Archibald.
The Next Generation
Dave and John Archibald were key staff of the general store D Archibald & Sons, where they sold everything from groceries to hardware, home appliances to cars, tractors and trucks.
Customers could have a charge account for their groceries and goods, have them delivered and pay them off over time. Selling Fisher and Paykel appliances in the 1940s-1950s was a strong arm of the business, closely followed by Massey Ferguson and Chevrolet.
Amy Hodgson, the vivacious daughter of Muriel Puckey and John Hodgson, editor of the Northland Age back in the day, was John's second wife. She worked in the store for a time, but concentrated on the upbringing of Jill and Bette, Rhonda and Brian.
John and David continued to run the business. Lily worked in the drapery store, and David went on to become Mayor of Kaitaia. They had a house in Kaitaia (now the Catholic presbytery), a beach house at Seaview Rd, Cable Bay, and helped pay for the church youth camp at Cooper's Beach. They were joined by younger family members such as Bella and Jean for a time, but John and Dave were constants.
It takes something special to be successful in Kaitaia though, and John and David sold out to North Auckland Farmers and Wrightcars. I well remember the chickens in the window at this time of year. These companies did not have the personality and love of Kaitaia, and did not thrive.
Doug Archibald Menswear - Doug was the son of David Jnr - was a popular menswear store in Kaitaia for much of the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile the semi-retired John and Dave continued to run their small finance company into the late 1970s. I remember a loan from Archibalds helped my dad Bill Haines set up his honey business.
For a time there was no hugely visible Archibald Shop in Commerce St. I remember asking Brian when I started going out with him, "What's that ugly old ugly office there?" and was embarrassed when he explained it was where his dad and Noel Clifford ran a small finance company.
When Brian sold his sharemilking herd to follow me to Auckland, he missed out on putting the proceeds of the sale into a house in Pakuranga because I was too slow arriving from Kaitaia to sign the papers. This was the turning point for Brian. John suggested he lend his $20,000 and Family Finance was born.
In the late 1980s, when Brian realised he could not afford to buy the farm he dreamed of, but with a passion for Kaitaia, he returned and worked for the Mangonui County Council, running the Project Employment Programme (PEP) scheme and collecting overdue rates. When PEP was phased out, he began selling Yamaha bikes with Bill and Betty Spanhake, in Bank St.
Mitsubishi Motors then approached Bill and Brian, offering them the Redan Motors Mitsubishi Franchise. They took it up, and the Archibald name was back on the main street.
In these early years Brian had many buying tips to Auckland auctions to buy cars. He could only afford to buy one or two at time. He and I would walk Taipā Beach at night, worrying about how to fund Archibald Northland Ltd.
A turning point came when Kāeo farmer Murray Leslie lent Brian enough money to buy five used cars at a time, enabling Archibalds to become a noted used car Northland dealership.
Today our son Andrew Archibald runs Archibald's Mitsubishi, Isuzu and Honda franchises, while Brian concentrates on farming.
Our youngest son, Tom (who was admitted to the bar at the High Court at Auckland in 2016), is famous in the family for complaining as a six-year-old, "I'm the only one in the family who hasn't sold a car!" He is now steering Family Finance and Northland Rentals.
Our son Patrick has just returned to the North from time in Australia, with his wife Andrea (after a long two weeks in lockdown).
Archibalds continue to be a major employer in Kaitaia, with new and used vehicleA sales, finance, service and parts. The family remains true to the founding ideals of customer focus, personality and love of the North.