A car that took a family across the US on a once-in-a-lifetime trip has now brought the same family back home to South Taranaki.

Craig Baylis has a few loves in life - his wife Jo and their children, his hometown of South Taranaki, the US and cars.

"He has always been into cars. When he was a child he always said he was going to sell cars when he grew up, and that's exactly what he did."

Jo says Craig's love of cars led to a special 50th birthday present for him, which has brought them home to Taranaki.

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"He always wanted a Chevy Caprice. That was the car every American cop show he watched as a child seemed to feature, so we found one online in New Jersey and bought it."

The couple took their children out of school for a month and flew over to collect the car, a brown 1987 Chevrolet Caprice.

"We drove it down the East coast to Florida, then back through the southern states before shipping it back home to New Zealand."

Driving through Southern states such as Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee the couple experienced what Jo calls "true Southern hospitality".

"The people there were so friendly, even more than Kiwis at times."

Jo says the trip made the couple realise how much they loved all things American, and Craig's home town of South Taranaki.

"At the same time we were looking to leave Auckland were we had lived for many years, to get out of the so-called rat race and into a slower pace of life, in a town with personality."

The couple gave up their jobs, Craig after 30-plus years in the motor industry, and Jo as national sales manager for realestate.co.nz and moved to Hawera, where Craig grew up.

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"Funnily enough, while I am originally from the UK and then lived in Auckland for many years, it turns out South Taranaki is also part of my DNA."

Jo was adopted and has discovered her birth mother actually came from Eltham.

"So I am a South Taranaki girl as well in a way."

Even without that connection, South Taranaki has always been a place Jo has loved.

"Ever since meeting Craig and spending our time visiting family etc in South Taranaki, I have always loved the place. Moving our family here was something we were really excited to do."

With the decision to relocate to South Taranaki made, the question was what they would do.

"We wanted to own our own business, so decided to put the things we love together and turn them into work."

The result is South Naki, a retail outlet on Union St in Hawera which sells a range of branded clothing bearing the logo South Naki as well as a range of western style clothing and boots from the USA.

Craig says the logo and name for the business was carefully thought out.

"The shape of the logo is the shape of a US state highway sign, while the mountain and water tower on it reflect the fact we are proud of where we come from - South Taranaki, not the wider Taranaki region."

When their first sign went up, it drew some online criticism with some people messaging the business's Facebook page saying the use of the word Naki was disrespectful, Jo says.

"We were surprised by the response, but actually, it has only been a few people who have been negative about it. Most people have actually called in and supported us."

Online critics have said the word Naki is insulting and has a negative meaning. Craig says he doesn't agree.

"There are lots of businesses across Taranaki which use Naki in their name, not to mention events such as the Naki run-a-muck, a sporting event the New Plymouth mayor proudly enters. For us, Naki is the name of where we come from, the place we love. According to the Māori dictionary it means to glide, to move with an even motion which matches our carefully considered move to the south from Auckland. For us, the name is perfect for us and our business."

Despite the debate over the use of the word Naki in their business, Craig and Jo say they are happy to be home in Hāwera and look forward to meeting their customers.

"We have lots of smaller items such as keyrings and bottle openers with our branding on, and I am sure they will appeal to some of the Americarna visitors in town next week as they will love the connection to the US highways."