This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on July 18, 2019
Whanganui's former central city fire station has taken on a new lease of life as La Station Design Store.
Tracy and Brian Hawker bought the building on the corner of Guyton and Wilson streets 18 months ago and have been hard at work since then, making changes to the building and preparing to open the design store.
Tracy also operates gift store Country Lane Originals and women's fashion store Fifty Five, next door to one another in Victoria Ave. She was initially a staff member at Country Lane and has owned the store for about 15 years.
The Hawkers, who met when they were at school in Mosgiel, came to Whanganui 19 years ago when Brian worked for Mars.
"We had been travelling the world with the company and Brian was managing Asia-Pacific for them," Tracy said.
"They asked us to come to Whanganui for five years. I'd never been here before and thought after five years we'd be out of here. At the end of that time, they asked us to move again but we didn't want to leave Whanganui and our son, our only child, was at school here."
As well as their Whanganui interests, they had some properties in Auckland, including a former fire station in Mt Eden. They were about to buy an Auckland apartment when they got a call from the Whanganui property's former owner Geoff Mackintosh.
"Geoff said he was selling and it was just like it was 'meant to be'," Tracy said.
The property is home to a hair salon and ballet studio and the Hawkers have now created a two-bedroom apartment for themselves plus a one-bedroom Airbnb. They have completed earthquake strengthening, started by Mackintosh, of the nearly 100-year-old building.
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La Station Design Store opened on the ground floor of the former fire station on June 10. Victoria's at La Station, a florist business owned by Victoria Rhodes, operates independently in the same space.
La Station takes the Country Lane concept to the next level.
"My suppliers always said I should pick up furniture but I didn't have room for it at Country Lane," Tracy said.
"The products at La Station are all from New Zealand suppliers. It's different, unique and really just what I like."
Tracy says she has been asked by some customers to help with styling their homes but, because she is not a qualified interior designer, she does not provide that service.
There had been a large amount of interest in the new store, Tracy said.
"We've had amazing support from the public of Whanganui and people from out of town. We even had some people from Australia staying in the Airbnb and they came in and did some shopping as well.
"It's amazing the amount of firemen that have come through to have a look. I can't believe the amount of men who come through here and love it and say they're bringing their wife back. They're comfortable being here."